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Health services external assessment to be released soon

Over the course of spring and fall terms of 2019, Carleton’s health services were reviewed in order to assess their scope. Keeling & Associates (K&A), a higher education consulting firm, met with students, faculty and staff to discuss the health services that the College currently provides.

Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston presented highlights from the report to CSA Senate on Monday, February 24. K&A consultants compiled their analysis in a PowerPoint presentation slated for impending release. The Carletonian spoke with Carleton administrators and staff members who were involved in the assessment.

Timeline of review

The K&A consultation covered wellness on campus overall, not just in regard to Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). Still, SHAC Director Marit Lysne played a major role in the review process. Before consultants from K&A even set foot on campus, Lysne and Associate Dean of Students Cathy Carlson had a phone conversation with them explaining the services that SHAC provides and what they believed their greatest challenges and strengths were.

K&A came to campus twice—once in the Spring and once in the Fall—to conduct the review. Consultants met with the SHAC and Office of Health Promotion (OHP) professional staff, the Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation department and two different groups of students. K&A also had phone conversations with the Chaplain’s Office. “They took a lot of time to try to understand campus, not just about our own services, but also our collaborations,” said Lysne.

K&A even met with faculty members to learn about the broader campus view of wellness overall. According to Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston, the whole Division of Student Life was part of the process. “Health and wellness is really everybody’s responsibility,” said Livingston. In recent years, the college has worked on fostering greater collaboration across different departments on campus and involving the entire Division of Student Life in conversations on mental health. Such initiatives have included the establishment of the OHP in 2016 and the introduction of the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant, which provides suicide prevention training and programs for faculty, staff and students.

The external review came at a critical time in which the prevalence of mental health concerns among college-aged students are rising at Carleton and other colleges across the country. In an effort to recruit students to meet with K&A representatives, Livingston said in an email, “Our approaches to service delivery will need to be reimagined to enable the College to continue to meet students’ needs in sustainable and financially responsible ways.”

Report highlights

One of the strengths highlighted in the report was the integrative structure of both physical and mental health at SHAC. Livingston stated, “you can’t separate the mind and the body.” Some colleges, such as Amherst and Bowdoin, have separate buildings for mental health counseling services and physical health services, while Carleton houses both in SHAC. Lysne described how K&A consultants were impressed with how intensely the SHAC staff works as a team and said, “the fact that we can work the whole student is a really effective model.”

Another important highlight, though unsurprising to the college, was the need to relocate SHAC. Lysne explained that both consulting processes that she has been a part of have identified space as an issue. Livingston said that she hoped to move forward quickly with improving SHAC’s space. Relocating has been the College’s goal since SHAC was initially moved into the basement of Davis temporarily in 2014.

An additional recommendation from K&A included developing a “scope of practice” document, which would clarify and communicate mental health services, including options and limitations, to current and potential students and families. Such a document would lay out the services that Carleton can provide and the intensity of those services. “There are some things that SHAC cannot do. We need to make clear what we can and cannot do,” said Livingston. Carleton will work on creating this document to distribute in the fall. With a scope of practice document, however, “Sometimes it can feel like you are drawing strict lines and false boundaries, and one thing I really appreciate about working here is we get to use our clinical judgment. I appreciate that we get to be flexible about some things,” said Lysne.

Also among the recommendations from K&A included charging students and billing insurance for certain services. Both Livingston and Lysne said the college was not planning to consider this recommendation. “That’s not something that feels right for our campus because that provides a lot of roadblocks and barriers. That would never be the choice for how we make something better,” said Lysne.

In response to the results from the report, Director of Health Promotion Janet Lewis Muth said, “OHP and SHAC collaborate regularly—and our work relies on each other—so we were very excited to see that the report supports more resources for SHAC.”

When asked why the college had not yet released a report or any results from the review, Livingston explained that an executive two-page summary had not been prepared yet. Carleton plans to release the report once it is final. Livingston stated, “When you engage people for feedback, you have to tell them something.” The two-to-three page report will likely be available to read on the Dean of Students’ website, along with other summaries of previous external reviews.

News Editor Grace Rubin contributed to reporting.

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