Health and Counseling Center hopes that ongoing student outreach programs will make care more accessible
Last semester, the Health and Counseling Center (HCC) hired many new mental health and medical care providers and is now fully staffed to meet student needs. However, a lack of rapport and trust between the HCC and students, alongside misinformation about available resources, continues to present barriers for student access to healthcare and counseling.
According to Zakiya Rhodes, the HCC Administrative Services Manager, the HCC hired 11 new staff members this year — nine of which are mental health providers — bringing the mental health staff to a total of 11 with a mix of part-time and full-time staff members.
As to whether the HCC is now better equipped to meet students’ needs, Rhodes said, “compared to the fall, definitely. We are open; We are definitely here for students.”
Although the HCC is now better staffed, some students have yet to feel the impact of this change. “There hasn’t been any communication from the HCC,” said senior and founder of Reed’s National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter Nick Chaiyachakorn. “While staff have been saying, ‘Yes. We’re happy to receive students.’ The HCC has not been proactive about building relationships with students.”
According to Rhodes, the HCC is aware of this and has been taking steps to repair these relationships and disseminate the correct information about the services they offer and their availability. Mental health providers have begun tabling in Commons during some lunches and the medical team plans to do so as well, to ensure students have the right information.
“Communication has been the biggest piece that’s been missing, especially with the loss of directors,” Rhodes said. She said that the first priority for the HCC is to fill the permanent position for Counseling Director so that there is a full time staff member to oversee and facilitate communication between the HCC and students. “There’s been a loss without having someone to connect the different sides,” she said.
Chaiyachakorn said that, while misinformation still exists about the HCC, he feels that they are aware of this issue. “I think they should be proactive about communicating with student groups and building organic, long term relationships between students and frontline staff,” he said.
According to Rhodes, there is a desire to bring back a program from previous years in which the HCC facilitated training for psychology students working towards their doctorate degrees, which allowed the center to maintain a larger and stronger counseling program.
Chaiyachakorn supports a return to this program and believes it would strengthen the HCC’s counseling services.
For now, Chaiyachakorn believes that the HCC’s next steps should be to ensure that students will take advantage of their new capacity. “It’s a long term project to build robust relationships with student groups and the student body in general,” he said, “I feel that it should be an ongoing project for them.”