Recommendations for HCDS released

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Queen’s tasked with implementing electronic record system, Student Wellness Centre

A report on the external review of Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) conducted in October has been released, and will serve as HCDS’s guide to improving its services.

The report tasks the University with the implementation of select changes, including the creation of a Student Wellness Centre (SWC).

The review was conducted over Oct. 28-29 by Debbie Bruckner, the SU Wellness Centre director at the University of Calgary, and David McMurray, the vice-president of Student Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University. A report of their findings was released Feb. 5.

The review fulfilled a recommendation made in the 2012 Report of the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health.

Two open meetings, an online questionnaire and meetings with “staff, students and key stakeholders” — including HCDS staff, the AMS, the SGPS, the Rector, associate deans, the Mental Health Working Group and representatives from the Kingston General Hospital (KGH) — comprised the review.

Recommendations from the review are divided into three categories: organizational structure and operational model(s); resourcing and funding; and collaborations and facilities.

There are 17 recommendations under the first category, nine under the second and 15 under the third, for a total of 41. The recommendations include implementing an electronic record system, longer contracts for physicians to decrease turnover and maintaining the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney told the Journal via email that while many are already being implemented or considered, “[a]ll recommendations will be reviewed as part of ongoing planning.”

She added that HCDS managers, staff and HCDS campus and community partners would be involved in reviewing the recommendations.

“We will also be discussing the recommendations with campus committees, such as the Provost's Advisory Committee on Mental Health and the Health and Wellness Steering Committee, both of which include faculty, staff and student representatives,” Tierney said.

Much of the report focuses on the SWC, a “fully integrated circle of care” made up of at least three streams within HCDS: Health Promotion, Student Health Services and Counselling Services, according to the report.

The Disability Services Office — for which the report supports a name change — may form part of the SWC or act alongside it, in conjunction with Student Academic Success Services and the Adaptive Technology Centre.

According to Tierney, the SWC is a main fundraising priority for Student Affairs.

“The planning for a proposed location is underway through Campus Planning, and one option is the PEC, as it is so centrally located and already connected with student wellness,” she said.

The report notes the PEC as an “ideal location” for the SWC.

Other recommendations include consideration of a fall reading week, support for international students and the building of external partnerships with agencies like KGH and Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“Many students are referred to experts in the community in a variety of areas, so further collaborations will benefit these students when they are receiving support and service off-campus,” Tierney said.

Another recommendation focused on balancing appointment types, which include crisis, same-day and booked appointments, “to accommodate student needs”.

Tierney said most appointments are booked in advance, while crisis situations necessitate “immediate intervention” and same-day appointments mean students require support on the same day “but not necessarily immediately”.

“The emphasis is on providing fast access for students and prioritizing those situations where a student is in distress and needs to be seen quickly,” she said.

The report’s final recommendation proposed “[i]ntegrating student success perseverance skills and competencies into the [first-year] curriculum to advance coping skills and resilience.”

Tierney said this proposal links back to recent partnerships between Student Affairs and faculties or schools, such as QSuccess and Bounce Back, as well as “education opportunities and training offered to students and student leaders by the university and by peers”.

“The reviewers are encouraging us to look at enhancing both curricular and co-curricular proactive education opportunities,” she said.

The report and recommendations can be viewed at http://www.queensu.ca/studentaffairs/sites/webpublish.queensu.ca.vpsawww/files/files/HCDS%20Review%20Recommendations%20Jan%202015.pdf .

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