Administration launches wellness initiative to improve counseling services
Southeast President Carlos Vargas, administrators and Student Government Association have collaborated since Fall 2017 to resolve issues involving the university’s wellness programs.
As a result, administrators have been gradually launching a mental health wellness initiative.
The initiative’s primary focus is to minimize the waitlist for students that need to utilize Counseling and Disability Services.
Assistant to the president for Equity and Diversity and dean of students Sonia R. Rucker emphasized administration had noticed the campus community had students who wanted to be on the counselors’ schedules, but there was never any additional room for new patients.
Therefore, plans to address the problem began with the budget office on ways to fit those needs. The first need was hiring more full time staff members, especially for a substance abuse prevention educator. None of the positions are new to counseling services, administration has hopes of having more counselors on campus regularly.
Interviews are currently being conducted for the substance abuse prevention educator position and more full-time staff members.
“We looked at the fact that we did not have a full time substance use counselor, we were contracting with someone in the community who was coming on campus a few times a week,” Rucker said. “We realized we needed a full-time substance abuse prevention educator counselor and we also decided to get another counselor II person.”
According to SEMO Human Resources, a substance use counselor II is responsible for providing individual and group counseling for substance use and mental health, providing on-call duties for walk-in emergency service and developing comprehensive substance use prevention and outreach programs for the campus community, to name a few.
As of Jan. 22, Janice Bunch became the new director of Counseling and Disability Services.
Former director Torie Grogan returned to her position of full time counselor.
Funding was vital for the wellness initiative.
Finance and Administration vice president Kathy Mangels said there were conversations among Vargas, executive staff and SGA throughout the fall and spring about critical areas that needed investment. Those conversations led to a decision to increase general fees to help support student wellness.
Beginning with the Fall 2018 semester there was an increase of $5.40 to general fees per credit hour for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.
“From the increase to the general fee, we had estimated that would bring in about another $240,000 of revenue,” Mangels said. “That is funding the additional positions, the software, and some those other operational needs.”
Administrators and counselors will now be able to implement more innovative counseling techniques, such as embedding counselors into the residence halls and someday a 24-hour support line. Being that Counseling and Disability Services has been recently relocated to a residence hall, Towers East, due to air quality concerns, which made it more convenient for students who were previously not as comfortable approaching the department.
Although having counseling services within a residence hall is not permanent, it is a potential asset in making students more comfortable with seeking mental health.
“We could potentially put a counselor over there [in the residence halls] one to two times a week or walk-in hours,” Rucker said. “Sometimes the barrier students have is that they don’t feel really comfortable utilizing those services. So these are all things that we could potentially down the line be talking about now that we have more people on staff.”
Administrators looked into new software systems that are compatible with iPads that will allow counselors to better treat patients and facilitate scheduling.
Currently students are having to fill out a form, which is then entered into the computer and then the counselor is able to see information about the patient. The new software on the iPads will eliminate the paper form obsolete, and it will be quicker.
Another aspect to the initiative is making Crisp Hall home to the Campus Health Clinic and Counseling and Disability Services, as well the Nursing Program by Fall 2019. The space will be the center of health and wellness for the campus community to utilize.
Southeast Health will continue to operate the Campus Health Clinic. After the renovations are complete the clinic will be in closer proximity with counseling services, which allows for the overlap in physical and mental health patients to be treated more efficiently.
Mangels said Crisp Hall renovation cost is about $4.7 million provided from state funding.
Renovations to Crisp Hall will be completed in July and the facility be fully functioning in Fall 2019.