Empower Me expands its reach to students on and off the AMS/GSS healthcare plan

The AMS’s Empower Me mental health hotline service has recently undergone changes to make it more widely accessible for students seeking mental health support.

Launched at UBC in 2017, Empower Me is a 24/7, Canada-wide mental health service that connects students with mental health professionals. The service offers multiple ways of connecting, such as through phone calls, video chat or in-person counselling in multiple languages. UBC students can also use the service to connect to counsellors in-person if they’re not in BC.

Previously, the service was only available to students who were covered by the AMS/GSS Health & Dental plan. Now the service is available to all UBC students, whether they opt into the plan or not.

As some students who are still covered by their parents’ health insurance or access other types of insurance choose to opt-out of the AMS/GSS plan, this change will allow a flexible option for students seeking mental health support, regardless of their insurance.

The changes occurred due to a Memorandum of Understanding between UBC and the AMS, whereby UBC took on the full costs of running Empower Me. Previously, the AMS had been funding half the service, while UBC funded the second half.

“The role we played is drafting an agreement to not only making sure that UBC was taking on the cost for students but also expanding it so that everyone at UBC can access it,” AMS President Chris Hakim said.

The hope is this change will allow more students to access the service, especially as the demand for mental health service availability increases.

“Recognition of mental health concerns is becoming more prominent and there is less shame in seeking services. So there is huge demand of mental health services,” said Terri- Lynn Mackay, the associate director of UBC counselling services.

“And the great thing about Empower Me is that they contract thousands of counsellors throughout the Lower Mainland and this provides so much more opportunities for students such as languages, times of day and scheduling,” she said.

Now that Empower Me is accessible to students both opted-into and out of the AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan, the AMS is working on expanding awareness.

“Moving forward, we will be working with Student Care and UBC on increasing the awareness around the Empower Me program so that students that are looking for mental health and wellbeing resources can find them,” Hakim said.