St. Paul to get more mental health resources

The U plans to open a $500,000 clinic by next fall to meet increased demand.

Hailey Colwell

The addition of a new $500,000 mental health clinic on the St. Paul campus could help the University of Minnesota address an increase in demand for mental health care.

By fall 2013, Boynton Health Service plans to expand its existing clinic in Coffey Hall on the St. Paul campus into an adjacent space that was occupied by the Bursar office.

The budgeted half-a-million dollar project will help Boynton meet the growing demand for mental health visits on campus. Students currently have to wait more than a month to book an initial appointment at the Mental Health Clinic, according to the website.

The project will add about 1,300 square feet to the existing 900-square-foot clinic, said Carl Anderson, chief operating officer at Boynton. The space will allow them to hire more much-needed employees to its 14-person mental health staff.

“Up until now, we’ve been kind of landlocked,” he said.

Anderson said Boynton plans to hire at least one full-time employee by the end of the year. He said he hopes to add four more by the time the clinic opens.

About 60 percent of funding for additional staff would come from billing insurance — if approved by the University’s provost and vice provost, Anderson said. Boynton plans to request the remaining 40 percent from student services fees.

Boynton received about $8.5 million in student services fees for 2012-13 — the second-largest amount given to any student group or
administrative unit.

“We want to make sure that if we add fees [and] expense that it’s definitely going to provide direct services,” Anderson said.

He said the renovation of the building would be covered by Boynton’s capital improvement budget included in existing student services fees.

Anderson said although the current St. Paul location has one University Counseling and Consulting Services staff member, the clinic doesn’t have the capacity to prescribe medication or treat severe mental disorders. He said these services would be available in the new space.

“This gives us the ability to add more resources and more services to the St. Paul campus, where we know there’s a significant student population.”

Anderson said the fall 2012 relocation of the Aurora Center to Appleby Hall has also opened up some space for mental health services.

“Between the two campuses, we think this is going to add some significant capacity for us to serve more mental health visits.”

Anderson said Boynton will also discuss its plans for the clinic with the Student Health Advisory Committee, a group of students that works closely with Boynton administration to make sure its services meet the needs of University students.

More than a quarter of all Twin Cities students surveyed reported being diagnosed with one or more mental health conditions in their lifetime, according to Boynton’s 2010 College Student Health Survey.

“There’s a big disparity on campus, and the waiting times to see someone was way too long, so that’s kind of why we’re doing this,” said Rachel Drake, co-chair of SHAC.

She said the committee agrees that the clinic would help address the overflow of mental health patients.

 University student Gage Vranich has been waiting more than two weeks to get his first consultation at Boynton’s Mental Health Clinic.

“The wait time is absolutely ridiculous,” said Vranich, who tried to get an appointment in early November.

Vranich said though he lives on the East Bank, he’d rather take a 10-minute bus ride to St. Paul than wait a month to get a consultation at a nearby clinic.

He said he hopes the clinic will make it easier for students to access Boynton’s services.

“It’s always good to have more than one choice, especially when it’s something as important as students’ mental health.”