Boynton expands mental health clinic

The $260,000 renovations come as student demand for service increased 25 percent in the last year.

Boynton Health Services, which renovated it's mental health clinic and moved it to the first floor, is seen on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Ellen Schmidt

Boynton Health Services, which renovated it’s mental health clinic and moved it to the first floor, is seen on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Cassidy Kieck

Boynton Health recently underwent a costly renovation to expand its mental health clinic.

The approximately $260,000 revamp opens a new 5,237 square foot space for patients and staff on the first floor of the building. If it receives additional funding, Boynton will add four therapists, a receptionist and a new nurse to the space.

The area opened for patients on May 30 and comes on the heels of a sustained push by Boynton to meet increased demand for service, and answers student advocacy efforts, said Gary Christenson, chief medical officer of Boynton Health.

The clinic added six new providers in a previous hiring push but saw demand for service skyrocket to 25 percent throughout last year — up from the typical 5 percent annual increase, he said.

“Because of the increased demand, … we decided that we needed that full space for mental health,” Christenson said.

Student governments at the University of Minnesota have been pushing for mental health resources to be improved for the past several years.

In December, the Council of Graduate Students passed a mental health resolution calling for enhancements. In May 2016, a similar resolution passed in the University Student Senate.

Student leaders agreed the renovations were important, but more needs to be done in the long-run.

President-elect of COGS, Lauren Mitchell, said the University is getting stuck in a “vicious cycle” where every three to five years, Boynton will need to continually expand to meet demand.

“Nobody’s really doing the kind of planning and calculating and examining our current system,” she said. “We still haven’t seen someone really take responsibility and say, ‘this issues matters … here’s how we’re going to plan for it.’”

Abeer Syedah, outgoing president of the Minnesota Student Association, said it’s easy for Boynton to be the target of criticisms amongst budget cuts, but ultimately it needs to remain a priority for the University and student advocacy efforts.

“Those of us that are campus community members that maybe aren’t students or just haven’t utilized Boynton might not comprehend why Boynton needs to exist with … sustainable funding and permanency,” she said.

Christenson said the clinic still has the opportunity to expand if the need is there.

“The great thing about this is we’re proactively thinking this out, not just meeting the needs of who we have now,” he said.