Senate Discuss HCC Accessibility and Improvements
A meeting that began with several normal committee reports and almost saw the approval for a new Quest budget ended with a Q&A with the new Counseling Services Director at the Health and Counseling Center (HCC), Johanna Workman.
Workman began by giving an overview of her work so far with the HCC. Workman is now beginning to explore methods for regaining student trust and making the counseling services a safer place for students. Workman hired three permanent clinicians, two of whom used to be on limited term contracts and are now full time, one of whom is a new hire. Workman also saw a lack of diversity in the HCC staff, where many people of color were only employed on limited term contracts. She worked with Reed administration to create two new positions: a specialist dedicated to the mental health needs of Black and African American students, and a specialist focused on the intersections of need for students with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identities. These positions will both work with individuals in counseling and therapy, as well as coordinate with on-campus groups such as the MRC to create events and programming to support students with marginalized identities.
Senator Priya Narain asked whether the incoming changes to the HCC would include the ability for on-campus ADHD screenings — an expensive and high-demand psychiatric evaluation which, Narain pointed out, is made available to students at other higher education institutions. Narain stressed her concern for the accessibility of these evaluations for students without healthcare and for whom access to a clinic capable of doing these evaluations is limited by COVID.
Workman said that ADHD screenings are an intense process that must be carried out by a psychiatrist. Their salary would typically be much higher than the clinicians Reed is currently employing and is currently outside of the HCC’s budget. If a student expresses a need for an ADHD screening, they are referred to an off-campus facility. Workman noted Reed’s copay assistance plan that can help fund costs not met by insurance, and Assistant Dean for Student Support, Britt Hoover, mentioned the disability evaluation fund meant to offset the cost of receiving an evaluation off campus that can pay up to $600. However, the copay assistance only applies to students who have health insurance, and the $600 available through the disability evaluation fund is well below the cost of an ADHD screening. For both of these programs, the burden of demonstrating financial need is placed on the student.
Senator Billy Fish asked about the HCC’s plans for soliciting student feedback. Workman said that within three to four weeks she expects a more robust system for taking student feedback.
Senator Charlotte Thompson asked if the HCC will be able to accommodate students with severe mental illnesses in the future. Workman expressed that that is her hope. Workman described the HCC right now as “incredibly understaffed,” and many of the staff were interns and limited-term clinicians. While she understands the value of training programs, she said that having inexperienced staff isn’t fair to the students who rely on the HCC for care. Workman hopes to hire seasoned clinicians with histories of treating complex cases. Frequent treatment is key for making therapy helpful, and without greater staffing and greater regularity of treatment, the HCC isn’t able to treat more severe diagnoses. Workman hopes that staff improvements will enable the HCC to provide more comprehensive care.
Fish also asked about what the accessibility of services looks like right now, and what is being done in light of COVID to make services more accessible. Workman said that if a student were in crisis right now, there is always a counselor on call — usually through Zoom, but also available in the HCC — to give emergency care. A triage will be held over the phone within two days, and appointments are usually made within seven to ten days of calling the HCC. On average, a student will see a clinician every two weeks through Zoom. Workman hopes that the structure of the HCC will ensure that those needs of marginalized students are fully met. By creating permanent positions — not just hiring individual, limited term clinicians — change can ingrain itself and programming can persist in robust forms.
At the beginning of New Business, Student Body President Al Chen brought up voting on the Quest’s new budget. The Quest had requested funding for all of the Quest’s actions that are written directly into Senate and Judicial Board bylaws, and as part of Senate’s attempts at being a more transparent body, they wanted to hold the vote in a public meeting. Right before voting, Student Body Vice President Apoorva Mangipudi mentioned that the budget submitted was a yearly budget, and she wanted to vote on a budget that would only apply to the fall semester. Senators also voiced that they wanted Treasurer Daksh Shami to be present, as well as a representative from the Quest Editorial Board. Mangipudi recommended that the budget proposal be discussed in an Executive Board meeting and voted on later, so the vote was not held this meeting.
Mangipudi reported that the Student Committee on Diversity (SCOD) and Committee on Diversity (COD) are continuing their program proposal with the center for teaching and learning to support students of color in the Hum 110 curriculum. Mangipudi also reported that the Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (SCAPP) is working on talks about spring break, hosting an airing-of-grievances event, and talking about Credit/No Credit options for the spring semester.
Senator Alondra Loza is also working on increasing communications between students and Hum 110 faculty. Loza is also working on deep cleaning and door replacement at the SU. Loza also reported that the Appointments Committee (AppCom) hired Al Chen and Hellie Smith as Paideia Czars. Thompson reported that the Student Opportunity Subsidy (SOS) is up and running, and that Safer Sex Society is continuing this year.
Chen reported that they are getting basic needs initiative proposals approved, especially the Fall Feast initiative. Chen also reported that there will be an airing of grievances event next week to discuss Community Safety that will only be open to students.
Vice Treasurer Ena Hashimoto started votes on two Financial Committee (FinComm) allocations. SCAPP requested $540, and the Quest requested $21 for comic supplies. Both allocations passed unanimously and were funded in full. As the Community Safety liaison, Assistant Treasurer Kodinna Anachebe has been meeting with Vice President for Student Life Dr. Karnell Black and Directory of Community Safety Gary Granger to discuss security and community events coming up on election day. Secretary Safi Zenger reported that she made her first Senate Instagram post.