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Pandemic leads to increased health services for JCSU students

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The pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color in more ways than one. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Latino Americans have contracted, been hospitalized and died from the virus at a significantly higher rate than Caucasian Americans. Compounded with the challenges of being a college student, navigating through these times can be a burden. JCSU faculty and staff continue to assist with students’ overall health in unique ways.

“Some students have had a challenging time navigating remote learning in addition to dealing with financial challenges during the pandemic,” said Tierra Parsons, director of the Counseling Services. “Another challenge for students has been adjusting to living back home. Students have grown accustomed to their independence, so that has been something we've had to assist them with.”

Counseling Services is still assisting students remotely with information sessions focused on topics including mental health and spirituality. Programs like Grinding for Wellness, led by Dr. Barksdale, allow student-athletes an opportunity to have conversations on Zoom every week. In collaboration with Student Leadership and Engagement, they created an inspirational music playlist to motivate students. 

The signature addition to JCSU student health efforts comes from a partnership with TimelyMD called SmithiteCare. Marian Jones, director of the Health Center introduced the idea. The service provides full-time students access to 24/7 medical and mental telehealthcare, with no cost at the time of the visit. The service allows students to visit with a medical professional from their phones or computers anywhere. 

JCSU is one of only four HBCUs currently offering the program. While it is free for students, they must register in order to use the service. Students are encouraged to take a virtual visit. 

“Virtual access to medical and mental health counseling has never been more important, especially for college students who may be learning remotely, need care after hours, and prefer to do so privately on their own devices,” said Luke Hejl, Co-Founder and CEO of TimelyMD. “Continuing classes this fall includes anticipating and addressing the concerns, needs and demands of students and their families. TimelyMD is proud to partner with Johnson C. Smith University to take quality medical and mental health care off everyone’s worry list.”

The coronavirus changed the expectations of the college experience, at least temporarily, but JCSU used it as an opportunity to increase its standard of care.  

"As an institution, I think we acknowledge the toll that COVID-19 has had on our students' intellectual, mental, emotional and physical well-being, said Dr. Davida Haywood, vice president of Student Affairs. “At the moment, this is our "new normal" in the Division of Student Affairs. But I am grateful to and thankful for my team rising to the occasion and for their ongoing commitment to putting our students' holistic development, albeit virtually, at the center of everything that they do.”

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