Student Health and Counseling Center seeks to provide care, services to students

Tuition and fees can be a stressful hassle for many students, but it helps to know what they can cover. In fact, there is more to it than paying for supplies and labs. For those taking a minimum of six credits, there is a health fee that allows students to take advantage of the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center.

The Student Health and Counseling Center on Rasmuson Hall’s first floor is one of the many facilities available to students. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

Located on the first floor of Rasmuson Hall, the SHCC provides a variety of services for students, including physical examinations, immunizations, counseling, and education.

“If students look very closely at their bill from the university, students who are taking six or more on-campus credits are automatically charged the health fee, and that’s $14 a credit,” Georgia DeKeyser, director and psychiatric mental health Nurse Practitioner at the SHCC, said. “It starts at six and caps at twelve.”

The center strives to maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit in students to help them throughout their journeys in both school and life.

“We do physical health, behavioral health, and also health promotion,” DeKeyser said. “Nationwide, most universities have health centers. People realize there’s a strong connection between academic success and health and well-being.”

Betty Bang is a family nurse practitioner and health educator and has been with the center for twelve years. She says that confidentiality is among their most important values, as well as quality care.

“First of all, it’s confidential care. This isn’t information that’s shared with other departments or agencies. You know, we use the same confidential care that’s required by law,” Bang said. “It’s quality care, very quality care. We have family nurse practitioners and physicians, you know, all highly qualified people. Our mental health counselors are excellent as well as our psychiatric nurse practitioners.”

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Although many people discover SHCC by simply walking past the office, the center makes many efforts to stay involved on campus and ensure that students are aware of the benefits and services they offer. Not only do they participate in events such as HOWL Days, but they also hold a clinic during move-in days with UAA housing so that students have the opportunity to get immunizations.

Accessibility and affordability help make SHCC unique compared to outside care, which can be advantageous to students. Bang says that their on-campus location is convenient and they also have the ability to help patients with the reduction of costs. This can include labs and expensive medication.

“Sometimes if students are on medications that are very expensive, like steroid inhalers for asthma, we can help them get on patient assistance programs through the drug companies so that they can get those at reduced costs,” Bang said.

DeKeyser says that their scheduling of appointments is also very important when it comes to remaining accessible for students. The practitioners at the SHCC are able to do same-day appointments for those who have urgent needs compared to the weeks that they may have to wait to see an outside medical provider. This applies to physical and mental health issues.

“Every student who calls or walks in and requests to speak with a counselor, we have kind of an ‘any open door’ policy, meaning that at least that student gets ten to twenty minutes to talk to a counselor to find out what’s going on and what their need is,” DeKeyser said.

For Michael Votava, the director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development, health education is also a vital aspect of the center. In addition to providing supportive services, they have programs and initiatives in place to raise awareness regarding several health topics.

“I think the student health center not only sees students with mental health issues and physical health issues but also trying to do education in the community about important health topics, such as suicide, such as the importance of staying physically active, promoting domestic violence and sexual assault programs,” Votava said.

A team within the SHCC, which consists of a health promotion specialist and peer health educators, carries out these initiatives. Bang works with this team and often gets involved with classes to hold training and education sessions.

She says that she enjoys seeing students in her role as a family nurse practitioner, but she especially appreciates the work she gets to do with the health education team.

“The peer health educators are just awesome students and they’re doing this job because they really like to make a difference,” Bang said. “And they’re the ones that do the Bystander Intervention training and help with all the special events that we do throughout campus.”

DeKeyser started as a graduate student with the SHCC, doing a student internship. After being employed as a psychiatric mental health counselor, she’s found that her favorite part of her work is being inspired by the students that come in.

“I enjoy working with students. Every student that comes in here has a goal and a hope and a dream. I think that it’s inspiring to me to walk alongside them while they’re moving forward,” DeKeyser said.

Votava says that he encourages students to be aware of the care and services that the center can provide, especially if they are eligible and in need of help regarding a concern they may have.

“The student is already paying for these services through their student health and counseling fee, so I would encourage them to take advantage of it,” Votava said. “I think it’s really a great deal for students.”

Although the health fee is not well-known, it offers an open door for students to receive services for any health-related concerns. DeKeyser hopes that students do reach out and take the initiative to discover how the SHCC can help.