On October 2, Student Life and Learning announced the construction of the Rossy Student Wellness Hub, a new student health initiative. Funded jointly by the Rossy Family Foundation and the University, the new $13-million health centre is scheduled to open on the third floor of the Brown Building in Spring 2019.
The Rossy Student Wellness Hub is the Student Life and Services’ response to criticism and calls for reform of McGill University’s mental health services. Martine Gauthier, Executive Director of Student Services, stated to The Bull & Bear that the administration is well aware of students’ grievances with the current physical and mental health support framework, especially key issues such as long wait times, inaccessibility, and the complexity of services. The Hub seeks to resolve these problems.
Gauthier stated that the trend across Canadian universities is to hire greater numbers of clinicians and support physicians to meet increased demand by students. However, this reactive plan to hire more staff fails to address the underlying issue: need for front-end support. The Hub hopes to be a pro-active, holistic, and preemptive step forward, so that students will not reach a point where they require clinician services in the first place.
The Hub will aggregate and centralize services into a single locale rather than forcing students to seek help from a myriad of different providers. It is designed to be a one-stop shop for all physical and mental health needs. Notably, it is both a physical space and a virtual infrastructure for service delivery and access to information. The Hub also hopes to address the crucial issue of long wait times by providing increased availability of same-day services, as well as multiple access points: walk ins, online bookings, and a telephone service. The ultimate goal of the Hub is to “make things easy for students” by “moving away from having students come to us, and instead have us go to them.”
Additional initiatives include the implementation of 11 Local Wellness Advisors to be placed in faculties, residences, services, and athletics as a direct point of contact for students. Advisors are tasked with directing students toward the kind of support they need, and triaging those needs back to the Hub. These advisors will also be distributed according to priority and risk factors..
Gauthier stated, “I‘ll tell you that Arts is overrepresented in counselling services. In terms of the number of students that come to counselling or psychiatric services it’s over 20%. The music department was the highest, then sciences, engineering, and law which were also very high in terms of the ratio of students that ended up in our mental health services, so those are the faculties we targeted first.”
Until the Hub opens in spring 2019, health services will be relocated away from the Brown Building as construction takes place. Beginning in Winter 2019, Local Wellness advisors will be placed in certain faculties, the Health and Wellness website will be consolidated and relaunched, and staff will undergo training. By opening in spring when there are less students, the Hub will undergo a sort of trial period for the school year during which they can find and address any unforeseen obstacles. Operating off this timeline, Student Services hopes that the Rossy Student Wellness Hub will be fully operational for the Fall 2019 semester.
Ultimately, Student Services is undertaking both a physical and philosophical change in how they approach mental health and provide services to students. Student Services is restructuring in order to be take a more holistic approach to health while responding to student concerns, changing needs, and calls for reform.