Lauderdale expands services in response to high demand

As student needs fluctuate and the demand for student health services continues to rise, several initiatives are underway this semester at Lauderdale Center for Student Health & Counseling.

Since she assumed the position in May, Administrative Director of Student Health & Counseling Erin Halligan-Avery has been working with the Health and Counseling departments to assess their strengths. Halligan-Avery said the departments are looking for new ways to meet student wants and needs.

“Instead of coming in and making changes, I think you have to come from a place of curiosity and that’s what I’ve done,” Halligan-Avery said. She indicated that she has spent the past five months consulting with staff in every department in Lauderdale and held separate retreats for clinicians, counselors, secretaries and nurses.

According to Halligan-Avery, the biggest challenge that Lauderdale is currently facing is one that most college health centers are confronted with: the resources struggle to meet increasing demand from students.

“We are not unique from any other Health and Counseling Center that is seeing an increased demand for services,” Halligan-Avery said. She added that about 40 percent more students had interest in counseling and psychological services during the first two weeks of school with a comparable amount seeking medical attention.

To help meet the increased demand, the Lauderdale’s consulting psychiatric nurse practitioner Barbara Dahlberg will be in the office two days a week, compared to once a week last semester.

In addition, Alcohol and Other Drug Program Coordinator Sarah Covell ’81 is expanding the resources available to students struggling with drug addiction or going through recovery.

Covell explained that when students previously wanted a support group for recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism, they would have to attend a general Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with people of all ages. Covell is now working with Livingston County’s Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse to create a support group exclusively for college students.

“Historically, we haven’t had a lot to offer them,” Covell said. She added that she plans to “provide space and support for students who want to start an on-campus recovery group.” All the groundwork is in place, but the program still needs at least six interested students to get underway.

In addition, staff counselor Laura Swanson has created a new group called the Mental Health Task Force, which held its first meeting earlier this semester. The group is largely comprised of staff and faculty members, but approximately 30 percent of the group members are students. According to Swanson, the purpose of the task force is to address student needs in three categories: mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse.

“Right now, we’re working on figuring out how to best assess what students need, what services they are aware of and where the holes are and where we might be able to fill those holes,” Swanson said.

The task force was created after the Jed and Clinton Foundation Health Matters Campus Program gave feedback on Geneseo’s mental health services and recommended a collaborative task force.

“The ultimate goal of the Jed and Clinton Campus Program is that student mental health and student well-being is a campus-wide effort,” Swanson said.

“Any time we can step out of Lauderdale and provide resource information to students, we do that,” Halligan-Avery added.