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Alabama Community College System looks to expand student mental health offerings • Alabama Reflector

Alabama Community College System looks to expand student mental health offerings • Alabama Reflector

The Alabama Community College System has signed a contract to provide more mental health services to students.

Neil Scott, vice chancellor of student success, said to the Alabama Community College System’s Board of Trustees that mental health has been a growing concern among their colleges, which have said they are not fully equipped to help students. He said the colleges have said that mental health services are very expensive.

“I don’t know if that’s something that you’ve been able to look at, but we have some of our colleges who have had mental health contracts with companies and the contracts are high, they’re very expensive,” Scott said. “But if we’re going to continue to be laser-focused on student success, it’s going to require us to look beyond a student’s academic experience.”

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Ebony Horton, a spokeswoman for the college, was not able to say when the contract was signed or the cost of the contract. She said they were still working out details of the contract with the colleges.

The services include a 24/7 crisis hotline that will be answered by a licensed counselor. Another component is scheduled mental health telehealth counseling services that students do not pay for.

He said that they were able to sign the contract at a lower cost at the system level.

Scott said they signed the contract with a company earlier this summer to provide services beginning in the fall. Scott did not identify the company.

Scott said that the telehealth services are intended to seem unlimited on the student end, while the system office manages a bank of hours.

“Maybe they want to speak with a counselor who has the same race or the same gender as them and they can put in those demographic information to be able to select a counselor that really meets their needs,” he said.

The third component is an online wellness hub, which includes self-help media and content.

“Maybe it’s just around exam time and they want to watch a video about managing stress during exam times or maybe it’s managing anxiety during holidays, when they’re going to be around family more or maybe it’s something as simple as yoga or meditation or just managing interpersonal relationships,” he said.