By Kristen Mitchell
The Colonial Health Center is making strides toward a full integration of student well-being services at George Washington University with a multidisciplinary approach to student support and an cross-departmental outreach team.
The integration began two years ago when MHS, HPPS and Medical Services moved into the same space in the Marvin Center, said Alexis C. Janda Knott, associate director of the Colonial Health Center HPPS. MHS and Medical Services were previously located outside the boundaries of the Foggy Bottom Campus. Ms. Knott said putting these services in one place allows CHC to provide a well-rounded approach student care, which increases quality of care and efficiency.
“For many people there are barriers to getting service or seeking out help,” she said. “First and foremost, we want to remove as many of those barriers as possible, whether it’s getting medical or mental health care, feeling comfortable asking somebody about contraception or substance use.”
Gillian Berry, interim director of MHS, said being in the same location allows professionals to consult, interact and develop services that are in the best interest of students. It also reduces the stigma of seeking mental health support.
“No one knows why anyone is in the lobby, it could be for any of the many services we provide at the Colonial Health Center, so we hope that students are more able to take the brave step to talk with a counselor,” she said. “Students can engage with multiple services on the same day so they can attend to the many areas of wellness we address, including emotional wellness.”
The CHC has created an enhanced outreach team and unified social media presence for a holistic approach to student wellness. The coordinated outreach creates a more efficient and effective message in addressing student concerns, Ms. Knott said.
“If Medical Services is seeing many students coming in with the flu, we’re all there to be able to collaborate on outreach, ‘we’re seeing a lot of flu, we need to push out information via social media,’ or, ‘let’s make some fliers to remind people to wash their hands, cover their cough, or promote flu clinics that are happening,’” she said.
To reach students, the CHC hosts an annual Chalk-In, a stress relief event, before final exams during spring semester and hosts Buff and Blue Happy Hours in the libraries as a study break for students. This year’s Chalk-In is scheduled for May 2. On selected mornings of exam week, CHC staff also hand out breakfast items during Breakfast Breaks in Gelman Library as well.
As part of continued outreach, the CHC hosts a Mental Health Discussion Series every Wednesday during the academic year. Each week focuses on a different topic. This year CHC will be launching CHC Health and Wellness Week after spring break, featuring activities and efforts to share tips on making healthy choices.
Students, student organizations, staff and faculty can also request CHC staff to come present on various health and wellness topics, Ms. Knott said. This includes presentations like the PowerHour Series, a number of workshops focusing on specific wellness issues like sleep and nutrition. CHC also creates custom or combination presentations.
Making the CHC a home for all GW student well-being services also has tied together the importance of physical and psychosocial health with a student’s academic goals, Ms. Knott said.
“A lot of people think of their health and well-being as separate from their academics, and they’re not,” she said. “If you’re struggling with emotional or physical health problems, or you’re misusing substances, or you’re not managing stress or anxiety well, you’re not going to be able to do well in class.”
Isabel Goldenberg, director of Medical Services, said her office has seen an increase in clinical visits since being located in the Marvin Center. The integrated nature of the services provides a comprehensive experience for students, she said.
“Students seem to appreciate the easy access and the collaborative model of care across disciplines,” Dr. Goldenberg said. “Frequently they offer positive feedback about the comprehensive care they receive.”
Earlier this year the CHC launched its new website, putting all information for MHS, Medical Services and HPPS on one site online. The services in the CHC can now be reached at 202-994-5300, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.