Strategic planning committee, UCC address increased demand for mental health resources on campus


Kelly McHale

At the end of this semester, the Chancellor’s Strategic Planning Committee on Mental Health and Wellbeing will present final recommendations for improved mental health services on campus. This committee was created last year and charged with formulating recommendations that support a more holistic and inclusive system of care for mental health and wellbeing.

On Nov. 15, the committee hosted a town hall as an opportunity for students to provide input before final recommendations are made. The event was well attended, and a variety of recommendations were presented that would impact both students and faculty. Recommendations for the PCC included increasing diversity and number of staff, improving clarity and scope of services and establishing satellite locations as resources for students.

One of the changes to mental health care on campus that has already been announced for next year is the replacement of the PCC with the UCC, or the University Counseling Center. Scheduled to open July 2018, the UCC will report to the Office of the Dean of Students rather than Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as the PCC currently does.

When providers are able to communicate better, the student receives better care

The UCC will contribute to an integrative care network with the Center for Student Wellbeing and the Student Health Center. This system will seek to increase communication between the centers.

“We intend to develop a more complete system of authorizations for release of information between the three centers to enable them to communicate more effectively in our efforts to provide holistic care for individual students,” Dean of Students Mark Bandas said.

This increased communication is a key component of creating a more integrative system. As the three centers communicate more freely, the system will look to more effectively meet students’ needs.

“When providers are able to communicate better, the student receives better care,” said Dr. Adriana Kipper-Smith, Interim Director of the PCC. “I think that’s the ultimate goal.”

In addition to heightened communication, the more integrative care system will include a focus of improving effectiveness of care.

“We intend to focus on providing improved crisis response and short-term therapy for students,” Bandas said. “We want to be able to treat more students more effectively. We also intend to broaden our network of providers to include VUMC clinics and clinicians as well as community providers to enable us to provide more support to students with chronic and complex mental health issues.”

While at this point it remains to be seen which of the final recommendations of the Chancellor’s Strategic Planning Committee will be implemented, many of the proposed recommendations, Bandas said, were well aligned with the plan for the UCC and the continuation of mental health care improvement on campus.

We want to be able to treat more students more effectively

One of the recommendations that was discussed at the town hall was the establishment of satellite locations for mental health services. These locations aim to increase accessibility of resources for students across campus.

“We used to have more of the satellite clinics and I think in the midst of the transition we decided to partially interrupt this service during this academic year, but I think the next step will be to have more of that–to be more present in centers,” Kipper-Smith said.

The Chancellor’s Strategic Planning Committee utilized an online suggestion box for feedback and suggestions for recommendations. As for input regarding the transition to the UCC, Dean Bandas emphasized the importance of receiving student perspectives throughout the process. As the transition proceeds, students can expect opportunities to provide input.

“I am not aware of any scheduled events at this time,” Bandas said. “Student Affairs will continue to seek input from students as our plans become concrete during the spring semester. We value student insight and input about the nature of student concerns and proposed services.”