The Well Ride program aims to support UNC students seeking mental health services by eliminating the barrier that many college students face: finding transportation.
The student-run program, created through the executive branch of the Undergraduate Student Government, is partnering with UNC's Counseling and Psychological Services and Lyft to offer students free transportation to off-campus counseling.
"Many of our on-campus students do not have a car," Phillips said. "The buses are not always reliable, especially now with many of the routes being cut down, and the times can be difficult to schedule around."
Students obtaining therapy and psychological services through CAPS can be referred to long-term treatment with community providers, which are available at no cost to students. In addition, CAPS also provides on-campus short-term counseling services.
The program has been in the works for several years, but due to barriers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and technicalities, the program wasn’t made accessible to students until this spring semester.
Seeing how the program has evolved is a reminder that Student Government work — particularly mental health advocacy — takes time, Director of Student Wellness and Safety Ethan Phillips said.
"While this administration of the executive branch for Undergraduate Student Government is ending in just about a month, we're hoping that this is going to be something that future administrations continue,” Phillips said.
The program serves as a community need because it provides students with reliable transportation to appointments. Student Government didn't want the cost of transportation to be a barrier to accessing long-term care, Phillips said.
First-year Chantelle Houston said she initially avoided going to therapy because of logistical issues.
"I didn't want to have to deal with that stress of trying to find transportation," she said. "So I put it off for three months and then I eventually just came to terms with having to go online because I still wasn't able to find any transportation."
She said she wishes the service had been available sooner and will consider using it in the future.
Isha Padhye, a senior adviser on the executive branch, said students can sign up for the Well Ride program by filling out an online form. Students will receive an email from Student Government once they have signed up with specific instructions and next steps.
"Twenty-four hours before their therapy appointment, they have to submit a form to us indicating where they would like to be picked up on campus," Padhye said.
Students can be picked up from three locations on and off campus. From there, they must enter their therapist's address, and Student Government will put that information into the Lyft system. The Lyft will send the passenger a link they can use to get to therapy and another to get back.
Padhye said it's great to see the program become a reality, especially after dealing with barriers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The team I've been working with all graduated, and you know, they've graduated, but they still check in on me,” she said. “As soon as it was announced, everyone was like, 'Oh my God, it's finally happening.’”
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