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Monday, October 26, 2020

Budget wounds: Health Center wants to increase student health fee

In 1998, gas was $1.06 a gallon and the student health fee was $11. Gas today is around $4 a gallon, but the student health fee remains the same.

Director of the Health Center Beth Benne wants to raise the health fee to provide better services to students.

“Going 21 years without raising the budget for the Health Center is doing nothing but hurting the health care we can provide. I don’t know how we are going to survive the rest of this year,” Benne said. “It’s very frustrating because I can’t service our students like I want to.”

According to Benne, increasing the student health fee will increase operating hours and provide a full-time psychologist.

“We still need to find time for more hours because the demand is just so great. Sometimes we are booked out two-to-three weeks in advance,” Benne said. “We need more room and we need a full-time psychologist.”

Vice Chancellor of Educational Programs and Institutional Effectiveness Ryan Cornner wrote in an email that the fee needed to be increased, although he also outlined the potential costs of such a fee.

“This is not a student established fee the way ASO and transportation fees are. The health fee is established by the [LACCD] Board district wide and there has to be a full analysis to bring to board,” Cornner wrote. “As the proposed fee increase represents an over $2.5 million increase on fees assessed to students, there is some process to conclude with the Board approval.”

According to Benne, the Health Center was able to hire three part-time mental health providers and supervising Clinical Psychologist Niaz Khani in spring 2019. However, Benne said that a fourth mental provider is still needed.

“It’s exhausting to us as providers,” Benne said. “I spoke to the board September 4 and at that time we had 25 new clients and I think we had three or four crises. It’s kind of mind-boggling.”

Benne said that she also wants to increase outreach to students with learning disabilities.

“Somebody asked me, ‘Do you have any disability ADD and ADHD testing?’ but we don’t,” Benne said. “Special services is desperate for somebody to do that.”

According to Benne, the LACCD General Counsel Jeffrey M. Prieto recently decided that they are able to increase the fee by $10, although it has yet to be implemented.

“I explained to them what the $10-per-student twice a year would do to my budget, which was increase it. Based on 18,000 headcount, it would be $360,000, which is a full-time psychologist and some other benefits for the psychologist,” Benne said.

Despite the desired raise in fees, Health Assistant Loralyn Frederick said the center recently increased its mental health clinic hours and services. 

“There has been a demand and before, when we had less hours, we couldn’t meet that demand.” Frederick said. “Before, we didn’t quite have the availability and we had to do more outside resources to have available for them.”

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