This opinion piece was submitted by Emily Gibson, director of the Student Health Center, Jon McGough, associate director of disAbility Resources for Students, and Shari Robinson, director of the Counseling Center. It is in response to an opinion piece The Western Front ran on how lack of funding for critical resources is failing students, which can be read here.
First, and most importantly, we thank the Western Front editorial board for their support and appreciation. What we do matters so much to us – we come to work every day to promote student access, health, and well-being at Western.
The Western Front ran an editorial on Feb. 14, 2018, titled “Lack of funding for critical resources failing students.” This column seeks to provide updated information and context.
Counseling centers at universities nationwide are experiencing unprecedented demand. Counseling center use nationally has increased about 30 percent since 2010. In the last five years at Western, we’ve added psychologists and mental health counselors, increased our investment in post-doctoral interns. This year we will hire an additional psychologist as well as fill vacant positions. We intend to continue incremental hiring to meet and sustain the national standard of 1,500 students per mental health provider. Some of these new counselors will likely be embedded throughout the campus, in such areas as Residence Life, Student Health Center, Multicultural Center, and the seven academic colleges.
The Student Health Center works hard to retain excellent health care providers at a time when a nationwide – and regional – shortage creates strong competition and high salaries. We have recently added a mental health social worker and a psychiatric nurse practitioner to extend our behavioral health services and meet the need for psychiatric medication prescriptions. And we evaluate our need to add nursing staff and primary care providers each year. During flu season particularly, it gets more challenging to meet student needs (our staff get sick too!) so students with less critical health issues may have to wait a little longer to be seen.
Disability Resources for Students (DRS) will be moving in a new direction, as well, with a full-time director and additional accommodation counselor. DRS is also moving to a new location in Wilson Library, which will underscore the department’s role in fostering inclusion and accessibility in the hub of Western’s learning community. The new space will be designed for collaboration in promoting accessibility in our physical and digital spaces. For the first time DRS will be able to host trainings on these important topics, while also offering a place for community and group dialogue.
We are committed to finding the resources to support the health and well-being of Western students. Serving students effectively requires clear communication. We’re excited about the changes we’re making, and we hear the concerns and comments raised by Western Front, as well as feedback received through our departments directly.
Thank you for highlighting these important services and for your support and engagement in making Western a better place for all of us.