Yesterday, Health Services announced that they will be adding diagnostic testing for learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder to the list of procedures covered under the Special Healthcare Needs Fund. The fund was established in 2012 to help students finance procedures that may not be covered by many insurance providers, such as pregnancy termination and treatment for drug addiction.
A press release from Dr. Samuel L. Seward, Jr., the Associate Vice President of Columbia Health, stated, “Last week, I met with three thoughtful and concerned students about this issue and we are happy to be able to include LD/ADD testing in the Special Healthcare Needs Fund…there was consensus that inclusion of LD/ADD testing was consistent with the spirit of the Special Healthcare Needs Fund.”
Those concerned students were members of the Mental Health Task Force, formed early last semester by students who were concerned with Columbia’s policy on medical leaves of absence. By the end of its first semester, the task force was successful in getting the policy changed so that students can take off a single semester rather than a full year. The key change is that the length of leave will now be based on a doctor’s recommendation—previously, single-semester leaves were not allowed, regardless of the situation.
The task force includes representatives from SWP, Active Minds, CQA, EAAH, Proud Colors, BSO, and more recently, Milvets. They are issue-based, with students working on specific projects to improve policy. Ramis Wadood, a University Senator on the task force, feels this system works best because “people can pursue the issues that they want to pursue.”
After tackling medical leave, the focus shifted to LD/AD testing. Sejal Singh, CCSC’s Vice President of Policy and a member of the task force, explained that undiagnosed LD/ADD is “actually fairly common…and because the tests are very expensive, and very, very rarely covered under insurance plans,” many students can’t afford to be tested. Without a diagnosis, which can cost hundreds of dollars, students can’t get treatment or accommodations for standardized testing such as the MCATs and LSATs, which have very strict criteria.
Asked about how many students the fund can provide assistance to, Singh noted that the fund has never hit its cap. Though this may be partly due to the fact that not many students are aware of the resource, “We feel very optimistic that the fund will more than cover any students who need to get this testing,” she said. Wadood added that publicizing the resources available through the Special Healthcare Needs Fund is “definitely one of our top priorities.” Those interested in applying for funding should go to John Jay room 437, and ask to speak with Tameshia Thomas. Applications will be reviewed by the Directors of Disability and Medical Services and the Executive Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, who make their decisions “within one business day.”
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