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Student Health and Counseling along with Campus Rec and Wellness go digital

April 13, 2020

As University of North Georgia (UNG) students have transitioned to remote learning, three offices have altered their operations to meet students' physical and mental needs virtually.

Student Health Services, Student Counseling and Campus Recreation and Wellness have adapted their functions to life during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue serving students.

Jennifer Cook, assistant director of Student Health Services at UNG's Dahlonega Campus, said both health center sites on UNG's Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses are open for appointments with limited hours. Clinics are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon Friday.

"We ask people to call ahead to space out appointments and decrease exposure," she said.

If an in-person visit is not possible, a telehealth platform is offered through the University System of Georgia. Students with health insurance plans may access the United Healthcare Student Resources Healthiest You program for free. Students without health insurance pay $40. All students can download the Healthiest You mobile app, call 855-870-5858 or visit the webpage.

Student Counseling is handling cases via a secure telehealth platform with three exceptions, said Dr. Simon Cordery, director of Student Counseling.

"If a student is suicidal, is self-injuring or dealing with substance abuse, we want to see them in person," he said. "And if that student is in a place where they can't come to us, we are steering them to a provider who can see them face to face."

For students dealing with anxiety, stress and other issues, Cordery said counselors are accepting new clients and serving current ones digitally.

"We don't use meeting platforms," Cordery said. "It's encrypted, so it's private."

He explained students can call the Student Counseling office on their home campus to make an appointment. Students are sent a link to click on at the appointment time. Cordery said the service provides a different but important avenue for students.

"We want to maintain a continuity of care for students," he said. "We don't want them to feel roped off from everything."

Staff members with Campus Recreation and Wellness had a similar thought.

"Everything happened so quickly and students feel disconnected," said Meri-Leigh Smith, associate director of Campus Rec and Wellness. "Just because they are online now, doesn't mean that we can't help them."

Campus Rec and Wellness has implemented a social media strategy and online interactive campaign to engage students in a world of social distancing. On the Instagram page, posts encourage students to move, eat healthy and exercise their body and brain. On the recreation facilities page, positive moments are shared three days a week.

"Besides reading the posts, students can interact through trivia or share through their story each day, too," Smith said. "Students are reaching out to each other."

Intramural Sports is involved, too. Rob Kelly, coordinator of intramural sports and sport clubs at UNG, said about 50 teams registered for esports games that will run for three weeks. Intramural Sports is also partnering with Nighthawks Entertainment to host a single-day Esports Tournament at 4 p.m. Friday, April 24.

"It helps to fill a void that the loss of in-person activities created," he said.

For students not interested in esports, Kelly said UNG students can participate in a national Quarantine Quiz Show through Twitch, an app available on phones, tablets and computers. The 45-minute trivia game streams live at 8 p.m. every Wednesday.

Kelly played on the first night. He said about 1,000 students from large and small, public and private schools joined.

"Participants gave shoutouts to their universities and mascots," he said. "It's a cool place to answer silly questions and interact with people from around the nation."

Students interacting with each other through these different mediums will aid them in this new world.

"Students are using these things to be fit, take care of mental health, and stay active and engaged," Smith said.

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Please note that some of the images and videos on our site may have been taken before social distancing, face coverings and restricted gatherings were required.

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