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'Here and available' - UNG clinics remain in service for health, mental needs
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A physician's assistant walks the hall at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus Student Health Services clinic. - photo by Scott Rogers

The University of North Georgia switched to all online classes on March 30, but the school’s health and counseling services have remained open and readily available to students in need. 

Karen Tomlinson, UNG director of student health services, said campus clinics never even considered shutting down and have continued to treat students albeit on an adjusted schedule. Clinics are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Friday.

“As we were hearing ‘I can’t get into my doctor,’ or ‘The urgent cares are full. The ERs are overwhelmed,’ it became more obvious that it was important we were here for students,” Tomlinson said. “So we have been here.”

UNG health services have provided help to students suffering from ailments unrelated to COVID-19 as well as those who believe they may have the virus but cannot get appointments to see their regular physicians. 

For students dealing with simple conditions such as seasonal allergies, Tomlinson said health services has worked to get prescriptions filled based on phone conversations and met students outside of the clinic to deliver medications without them ever having to go inside. 

Potential COVID-19 patients have been treated with all possible caution, with contact to the patient limited to one health services employee per case in an effort to prevent further spreading. Tomlinson said that UNG clinics have tested a small handful of students through tests received from LabCorp, but none have come back positive.

Regardless of the severity of an ailment, the UNG clinics have provided an outlet for sick students to seek treatment even when most other healthcare providers are struggling to find time for new patients.

“I think it’s extremely important that we are open during this time, especially for those without insurance,” Tomlinson said. “If they’ve paid the health fee, we don’t charge them anything extra. It’s a one-time fee once a semester, and they can come in multiple times.” 

UNG is also accommodating students with mental health concerns. 

Simon Cordery, UNG director of student counseling, said the university has continued to schedule sessions with students via telephone or video call.

Cordery said that stress related to COVID-19 has compounded with the anxiety that comes regularly with going through college, putting many students in greater need of counseling than before.

“They’ve got to worry about ‘how am I going to do all these online classes? How am I going to pay for my tuition? My family is out of work.’ All those things,” Cordery said.

Most counseling appointments are done virtually, but Cordery said students who are actively suicidal, self harming or dealing with substance abuse can meet with a UNG counselor in person. Sessions have taken place either on campus on a case-to-case basis, or through a third party closer to the students home with UNG counseling acting as an intermediary.

In an effort to reach as many UNG students as possible about health-related services offered at the school and to provide help and information to those who need it, both Cordery and Tomlinson have posted videos geared toward making students feel less alone. 

The goal, as Tomlinson puts “it is to help them significantly.”

“We don’t want them to feel like they’re roped off from services,” Cordery said. “We want them to know that we’re here and available.”

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