by Por Eiamkamchanali
By the time each Macalester class graduates up to 90 percent of the students will have visited the Health and Wellness Center. The Center provides students with a wide array of services, including short-term counseling, primary medical care, athletic trainer visits, psychiatric appointments and medical and counseling triage.
“If students are not healthy, they cannot fully engage in the total educational experience offered at Macalester,” said Denise Ward, who has worked at Macalester for 30 years and now serves as the Associate Dean for Student Services at the Health and Wellness Center. “We are experts in college students – the concerns, decisions and health challenges they face – and are positioned to educate and connect the community around these issues.”
Within the Center, there are 19 staff members spread throughout four departments: administrative, counseling, medical and health promotion. These departments work together to ensure that all Macalester students can easily access the health care that they need, both on campus and in the Twin Cities. “At the end of the day, we are here to educate and support students and help them access the resources they need, assuring that cost, transportation and knowledge of options does not get in their way,” Ward said.
In terms of its day-to-day operations, the Center functions much like other primary care providers. “You usually can’t call and be seen the same day – you would be referred to an urgent center, ‘minute clinic’ or hospital, depending upon the concern.” Ward said. “That being said, we do hold some appointments every day for urgent situations and counseling has drop-in appointments,” Students may also use drop-in counseling twice a week by a first-come, first-serve basis. In addition, the Health and Wellness Center offers after-hours phone support for students who need immediate help. Ward works closely with Ted Rueff, the Director of Counseling Services, who oversees the strategic findings and day-to-day operations of the counseling operations. Along with a team of five full-time counselors, a graduate student and a psychologist, Rueff is responsible for providing the Macalester community with professional counseling services. The department provides individual counseling by appointment, group counseling, drop-in appointments, care coordination and psychiatric attention. “I think it’s important that students not let stigma interfere with their ability to help themselves,” Rueff said. “I would want people to know that help is available [to them].We’re here to help and if we can’t meet your need, we will work with you to figure out how that need can and will be met.” Although individual appointments are the “bread and butter” of what the department provides, Rueff also emphasized the value of the various group counseling sessions that he and his colleagues coordinate. “Group counseling provides a really unique and highly therapeutic environment for people,” he said. “People may not be aware of how many group offerings we do have and the healing power of those groups.” There are currently five counseling groups at the Center, which cover topics such as grief, anxiety, mindfulness and sexual assault. The Health and Wellness also provides students with seasonal lights, wheelchairs and crutches. These items can all be checked out from the Center. Students can also receive emergency contraception, vaccinations and immunizations and free safer sex supplies. In addition, the Health and Wellness Center provides therapy dogs that help de-stress Macalester students—also free of charge. Although most of the services provided by the Health and Wellness Center are free of charge, certain services are not, such as physicals, lab work, prescription medication, vaccinations and immunizations. If a student has Macalester’s health insurance, all costs that occur in the Health and Wellness Center are 100% covered. The Health and Wellness Center will submit the claim to the insurance company, so there will no charges on the student’s billing account. If the student does not have the Macalester health insurance, charges will be placed on the student’s account. “There is no exclusion [on the Macalester health insurance] for alcohol or drug-related injuries or for suicide-attempt injuries – many plans have that exclusion,” Ward explained.
The Health and Wellness Center also trains student leaders to assist others, through workshops, such as Consent is Mac, Sexy Training, Wellness Wednesdays, sleep education in First Year Courses and activity classes. “We have a great team of student staff who work in health promotion,” Ward said. “They create and run many of the events and workshops students participate in. From the 5K race in the fall, to Health on Wheels in the res halls, to Sexy training and so much more, they are at the heart of our outreach.”
Along with providing on-campus health care services for Macalester students, Ward and her colleagues also assist them in navigating the healthcare system in the Twin Cities. “We have as a priority helping students access the health care system beyond campus to learn how to navigate health care and take responsibility for their own health.” said Ward. If a student is in need of external support, the Health and Wellness Center will help the student with the process of choosing a clinic and insurance management. At its core, the Health and Wellness Center aims to ensure students feel comfortable contacting them if they need any medical support or resources to help them. “Students should view the Health and Wellness Center as a primary care clinic: a gateway experience to the community,” Rueff said. If a student feels the need to consult health care, they can make appointments with the Health and Wellness Center via drop-in or by call. It is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.