campus news

SUNY funding to boost mental health services at UB

A person speaking with a counselor.

UB will use most of its new state funding to hire seven counselors who will be embedded within the academic units. Photo: Onion Studio


Published April 10, 2024

“Prioritizing embedded counselors and other mental health-related services underscores our continued commitment to the well-being of our students, ensuring they have the resources and support they need to thrive both academically and personally here at UB. ”
Brian Hamluk, vice president for student life

UB is expanding mental health support for students, which includes the hiring of several new “embedded” counselors and broadening virtual or teletherapy services.  

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced new state funding for mental health support across SUNY campuses, including $1 million at UB.

“College can be a stressful and overwhelming time and this funding will expand mental health services on college campuses so students can focus on just being students,” the governor said in a statement.

UB will use the bulk of its funding, which is recurring, to hire seven counselors. Each will be embedded within one of seven academic units: the schools of Management, Social Work, Nursing, Public Health and Health Professions, and Architecture and Planning; the Graduate School of Education; and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Student health and wellness is a significant priority at the University at Buffalo,” says Brian Hamluk, vice president for student life. “Prioritizing embedded counselors and other mental health-related services underscores our continued commitment to the well-being of our students, ensuring they have the resources and support they need to thrive both academically and personally here at UB.”

The seven new hires will start over the summer, bringing the total number of counselors on campus to 31, says Sharon Mitchell, senior director of student wellness and director of counseling services.

“The biggest thing is the accessibility,” Mitchell says of embedded counselors. “It’s just more convenient if you don’t have to add travel time to get to and from your appointment.

“Also, it reduces stigma because it normalizes seeking help,” Mitchell says. “There’s an academic adviser in the building. There’s a success coach in the building. Now, there’s a mental health counselor in the building. These are all resources that could be of help to students.”

The Embedded Counselor Program, which recently won an award at the national conference of student affairs administrators, started at UB in 2017 with an embedded counselor in athletics. Since then, the program has added an embedded counselor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; the School of Law, Dental Medicine, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and most recently, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Now, with these new hirings, a counselor will be embedded within each academic unit.

“They primarily provide individual counseling,” Mitchell says. “However, we also do outreach.

“For example,” she says, “if the medical school has exams, maybe we offer an educational workshop on managing stress. What’s nice is that we can tailor the programming specifically for students of a particular academic community.”

During the five-year period prior to the pandemic, Counseling Services saw a 43% increase in the number of students seeking mental health services and a 29% increase in the number of attended counseling sessions.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, students have requested more support on campus for their mental health.

To make an appointment with Counseling Services, students can call 716-645-2720.

In addition to the seven new counselors, the new funding will pay for:

  • Expanded teletherapy services. Counseling Services will contract with a professionally licensed vendor to provide services online or over the phone. This makes counseling more accessible and convenient for students who need services outside regular business hours.

“Even though we will have more counselors we are only open until 7 p.m. two nights a week,” Mitchell says. “The teletherapy services will allow us to provide services for students whose schedules just can’t fit into that or who might do a round of treatment with us but need additional care.”

  • A financial well-being program coordinator. UB students have reported that finances are among their biggest stressors and a primary factor in their academic success and retention. A financial wellness coordinator can help them with financial literacy and developing a financial plan, while guiding them toward available resources.
  • A sexual and reproductive health nurse educator. Students have requested more support regarding their reproductive health, contraception and sexually transmitted infections. This position would provide students with both clinical and educational services.
  • Four graduate assistants. The four new positions will increase capacity for both clinical and educational programming.
  • Trauma, illness and grief training. This training, open to staff and faculty, would help grow the emotional support of the campus beyond what mental health counselors can provide during the aftermath of a traumatic experience.