The Student Union Mental Health Fund, launched in October 2018 for its pilot year, will continue to allow students with financial need to receive funding towards mental health care.
The Office for Student Success, who partnered with SU on the fund, will send an email to students eligible for the fund this week with instructions on how to access it. The terms of eligibility are determined through students' expected family contribution from Student Financial Services.
The origins of the fund trace back to 2018, when former Senators Tyler Tran and Carolyn Perlmutter founded it. $50,000 were designated to go towards mental health, with $18,000 going towards a resource portal for faculty and staff and the remaining $32,000 for the fund. In April, Senate and Treasury unanimously approved a plan to secure $210,000 for the fund for the next five years.
Now led by Treasury Representative senior Shelly Gupta and Health & Wellness Committee Chair sophomore Gaby Smith, the fund can cover mental health services such as co-pays, medication and transportation.
Smith said that seeing students apply for the fund starting during the "soft launch" of fall 2018 and again during spring 2019 was encouraging.
"That was definitely, in a sense, feedback that some of the infrastructure we had in place was working, students felt like there was a need for this fund and that we saw the numbers actually growing and that we've seen students continuously utilizing this fund," Smith said.
Although students who don't initially qualify will not be able to access the fund, Gupta is hopeful that in the future more students will be eligible for the fund.
"This is my last year here, and I think that's one of my goals for the next however many months, trying to figure out a way to sustain this fund beyond my time," Gupta said.
Senior Amaia Cook, a member of Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity (WU/FUSED), referred to the fund as "a step forward in helping under-resourced students attain equitable resources."
Co-Recruitment Director of Uncle Joe's junior Katherine Wallace hopes the fund will encourage people to seek mental health care proactively.
"What I most appreciate about the fund is that it destigmatizes mental health care and promotes the idea that everyone has a right to access mental health treatment," Wallace wrote in a statement to Student Life.
Uncle Joe's other Co-Recruitment Director senior Lizzie Franclemont was happy to see specific actions taken towards supporting students.
"I chose to be a Joe (and was previously in SU), because I know the impact that my mental health has had on me as a woman of color at a predominantly white and mainly upper-class institution and during my time at Wash. U.," Franclemont wrote in a statement to Student Life. "I've noticed how many barriers there are to resources, especially to the communities that need them the most. I hope that this is the first of many changes to create support and equitable experiences for the entire Wash. U. community."
Smith is optimistic that with the increased Pell Grant eligibility of the class of 2023, more first year students will apply for the fund and receive any mental health care they may need.
"All these factors make us really hopeful for the upcoming year," Smith said. "Mental health is a real problem on this campus and something that needs to be addressed, and students should be supported in seeking treatment. Financial barriers, especially for low-income students, shouldn't prevent them from getting care that they need to be successful students on this campus."