St. Paul mental health clinic opens

The expansion comes at a time of increasing student demand.

Nurse Jody Geinger speaks on the phone at the new Boynton Health Services mental health clinic. The clinic, located on the St. Paul campus, offers services in mental health, nutrition, physical therapy and primary care.

Juliet Farmer

Nurse Jody Geinger speaks on the phone at the new Boynton Health Services mental health clinic. The clinic, located on the St. Paul campus, offers services in mental health, nutrition, physical therapy and primary care.

Kyle Stowe

A new mental health clinic on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus opened Monday, the latest in a joint initiative among University departments and student groups to increase mental health services on campus.

The clinic, an expansion of an existing clinic in Coffey Hall, should help decrease wait times for students seeking mental health assistance, said Dave Golden, director of public health for Boynton Health Service.

Nearly 3,000 students used the Mental Health Clinic on the Minneapolis campus last year.

“We had waiting lists again last year, which we really don’t like to see,” Golden said. “We needed more resources.”

When the University Bursar’s office left Coffey Hall in June, Golden said, space for the St. Paul Clinic doubled, making room for the mental health clinic addition.

“It really helped by having the space come up,” Golden said. “We’ve been cramped.”

The clinic cost about $500,000 and will be staffed by two new mental health employees who were funded by the Student Services Fees Committee last spring.

The new location will make mental health care more accessible to students in St. Paul, said Glenn Hirsch, director of University Counseling and Consulting Services.

UCCS employs one full-time staff member for mental health services in St. Paul, but that employee doesn’t have the ability to treat severe mental health disorders or prescribe medication, Hirsch said. The new clinic will make those services available on the St. Paul campus.

“I think the St. Paul campus hasn’t always got the resources that the Minneapolis campus has,” Hirsch said. “I think this is a nice way to balance that out.”

Minnesota Student Association President Mike Schmit is working with Boynton and other University leaders to increase mental health care options for students on campus. He said it’s important to eliminate barriers for students who need help.

“Just traveling from St. Paul to Minneapolis is a huge barrier in and of itself,” Schmit said. “I think the additional clinic in St. Paul will make mental health support more convenient to students out there.”

Julie Noland, a certified medical assistant at Boynton’s St. Paul location for the last 22 years, said in the past, students from the St. Paul campus needed to travel to Minneapolis to make an in-person appointment for first-time mental health clinic visits.

“It just took a lot of travel time,” she said.

Schmit said he thinks Boynton is doing everything it can with its current resources, and he’s happy with steps being taken to meet the demand for mental health services. But students should continue offering their input on the issue, he said.

For Golden, the new clinic is a way to alleviate an increasing need on campus.

“We think this is a home run of an opportunity,” he said.