November 22, 2017  

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Telecounseling Expands Mental Health Services for Southern Miss Students

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Access to health care services provided by The University of Southern Mississippi is becoming more accessible for students along the Mississippi Gulf Coast thanks to the use of telehealth technology.

In January, Student Counseling Services, based out of the University’s Hattiesburg campus, introduced a new service known as telecounseling to better serve students enrolled in classes at the University’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach and other teaching and research sites on the coast.

“Mental health counseling services remain a critical student-support need at our institution,” said Dr. Casey Maugh Funderburk, vice provost for the Gulf Park campus. “Expanding our counseling services to include both in-person and telecounseling options allow us to reach more students and the increasing demand for this support at our Gulf Park campus.”

Southern Miss is one of the first universities in Mississippi to use telehealth specifically for a telecounseling connection, which is maintained by the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson. In 2015, Southern Miss was also the first university in the state to use telehealth to provide primary care for its students, faculty and staff. 

“This is a great addition to the Southern Miss community. This service allows us to expand counseling resources to more students at the University,” said Deena Crawford, director of Student Counseling Services. “Collaborations between Student Counseling Services and Gulf Park campus leadership have allowed Southern Miss the opportunity to offer this innovative service to help our students meet their educational goals.”

This addition of telecounseling at Southern Miss provides a significant expansion of access to Student Counseling Services, allowing patients to have contact with a counselor through a webcam on the Gulf Park campus.

“The Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses have the same goal – to serve the students of Southern Miss,” said Crawford. “Student Counseling Services has been able to meet some of the needs of the Gulf Park campus in the past, but this technology will help coastal students have access to the same type of services available in Hattiesburg.”

Prior to telecounseling, Gulf Park students were provided access to counseling one day a week. Now, with the implementation of telecounseling, students can receive mental health assessments, consultations or counseling from one of five trained licensed counselors or a psychologist Monday through Thursday.

Maugh Funderburk, who is also a member of the Campus Action Referral Evaluation System (CARES) team – a group of campus professionals who respond to reports of concern regarding the academic progress and well-being of students – noted that the expansion of counseling services at Gulf Park also means that students’ needs can be addressed more quickly in times of immediate need. 

“Research suggests that mental health issues, including anxiety, stress and personal crisis, are some of the main reasons college students are unable to be academically successful. We also know that access to counseling services improves performance outside of the classroom, too. Providing tools for managing personal life and academic stressors is essential to improving quality of life all around,” said Maugh Funderburk.

Student Counseling Services is available to all students currently enrolled in courses at The University of Southern Mississippi. Students located on the Gulf Park campus and other teaching and research sites along the coast may receive in-person counseling every Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and access telecounseling services Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through the Health Center at Gulf Park. Students on the Hattiesburg campus may access Student Counseling Services Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., in Bond Hall East.  

To learn more about Student Counseling Services, visit www.usm.edu/student-counseling-services. To book an appointment, call 601.266.4829. For emergency services after 5 p.m., call 601.606.4357.