June 9, 2021

On- and off-campus telehealth programs serve UM, greater community

UM’s Student Health Services and Counseling Services adapted to continue delivering assistance to students and employees despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, and the University’s counseling master’s degree program is looking to expand its counseling services to rural areas in central Alabama.

Over the past year, Student Health Services and Counseling Services pivoted to a telehealth model so they could continue serving campus while practicing social distancing during the pandemic.

As a result, Student Health Services has been conducting most student appointments over the phone. Any students who reported respiratory symptoms were referred off-campus for COVID-19 testing, and Student Health Services recommended over-the-counter medications to take for symptom relief.

Counseling Services has been following a similar model by offering all of its services via telehealth, including individual counseling, group counseling, case management, crisis management and emergency assistance.

“When the pandemic first began, alumni donors provided funds that allowed us to purchase all the equipment needed and for our licensed providers to participate in the Board Certified TeleMental Health Training through National Board for Certified Counselors,” said Counseling Services Director Josh Miller M.Ed. ’07. “Because of their generosity, we were prepared to go remote before the spring 2020 shutdown, and our students never experienced a disruption in services.”

Thanks to a significant federal grant awarded earlier this year, the University will also be able to offer telehealth and professional development opportunities to students, teachers and community members in rural central Alabama counties.

Through the nearly $600,000 United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Services grant, the University will partner with schools in Bibb, Dallas and Talladega counties to place technology hardware and software in each community.

UM’s counseling program will use the technology to expand its free Community Counseling Clinic to serve students and community members in the three counties through telehealth. UM will also expand distance education and professional development opportunities for students in the three counties.

The principal investigator for this newly acquired grant is College of Education & Human Development Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor, Dr. Jennifer Alexiou-Ray, who in 2018 also played a key role in securing the $27 million Department of Education GEAR UP Jefferson County grant.