By Talera Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org
This year, students can look forward to a series of changes in Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS).
The mental health services department at SHACS has been a topic of considerable controversy over the past few years, especially since this semester began with no mental health counselors on-staff.
As of Sept. 3, there are two full-time employees and three part-time employees on staff in the SHACS mental health department. All the employees are in-house Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) therapists with varying degrees and specialties, and will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Grinnell College is currently interviewing candidates for the Associate Director position, which we hope to fill soon. The person will help to oversee the counseling side of SHACS alongside the Director of SHACS as well as provide direct services to our students,” wrote Deborah Shill, Director of SHACS, in an email to The S&B.
A program to bring doctoral candidates in psychology from the University of Iowa to Grinnell for counseling has also been in the works for a while, but has yet to officially be set in motion.
“Potentially, our associate director could supervise that program or we could collaborate with the University of Iowa to provide supervision. So, the doctoral program, right now, is still in conversation,” Shill wrote.
Of the five mental health employees at GRMC, psychiatric nurse practitioner Megan Berryhill is the last in-person prescriber of mental health medication due to the recent departure of the hospital’s psychiatrist. Due to the reduced staff, Berryhill has a heavier patient load that includes both local residents and Grinnell College students.
SGA President Dan Davis ’16 has advocated for reform at SHACS this last
“After receiving non-continuous care for my first years of college, I started getting into activism at Grinnell, making sure SHACS was where I wanted it to be, so that it was great not just for me but it was also there for other students that needed the resources,” Davis said.
Sam McDonnell ’17 leads the student group Active Minds, which aims to de-stigmatize mental illness and raise awareness of mental health issues on-campus.
McDonnell recognizes the current limitations of SHACS, but said he is optimistic about its future.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s getting there,” McDonnell said.
The SHACS mental health department has also recently hired a new staff nurse, Sarah Newell. Newell has six years of in-patient mental health experience and will be available to students for counseling services soon.
Newell’s work will include “mental health medication management from local or back home providers, referrals to counseling services both within SHACS and outside of the community, coordination of services and transportation to outlying providers, outreach and education to students and much more,” Newell said.
In the meantime, Davis and SGA Vice President of Student Affairs Dixon Romeo ’16 have organized a working group for students which focuses on goals for the future of mental health treatment at Grinnell.
“Mental health is something I’m really passionate about, and I want to make sure everyone has adequate resources for attending college in rural Iowa … rural communities in Iowa often have difficulty providing mental health to their constituents,” Davis said.
The working group meets Fridays at 4 p.m. in JRC 225.