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The Scarlet & Black

The State of SHACS

John Brady
SHACS administrators give updates on the state of mental health counseling in Loose Lounge. Photo by John Brady.

Administrators from Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS) teamed up with SGA Vice President for Student Affairs Iulia Iordache ’15 and Emma Falley ’15, the co-leader of the student group Active Minds, to host a roundtable regarding the current state of counseling and the availability of therapists for Grinnell students on Thursday, Oct. 2 in Loose Lounge.

SHACS Director Deb Shill and Beth Gallegos, who is currently working with SHACS as a licensed clinical health worker from Grinnell Regional Medical Center, explained the difficulties they’ve encountered while looking for new therapists and other issues associated with mental health on campus.

While most of SHACS’s administrative staff was retained from last year, there will be two new nurses, which will account for most of Shill’s clinical duties. Shill said that there will also be approximately two new full-time therapists working at SHACS soon.

SHACS will also be trying out a new “open house” system before midterms and finals, in order to account for the increase in students who visit during those times.

Shill and Gallegos emphasized that they want a more stable staff, which they said will help students feel more comfortable and to allow them to return to familiar therapists. Brief and limited therapy is still free, and students who want long-term therapy will be assessed and recommended elsewhere, as SHACS does not have the resources to meet all those needs.

SHACS administrators give updates on the state of mental health counseling in Loose Lounge. Photo by John Brady.
SHACS administrators give updates on the state of mental health counseling in Loose Lounge.
Photo by John Brady.

Gallegos emphasized that an increased degree of trust is particularly important in their decision to retain a more concentrated group of therapists.

Unfortunately the SHACS representatives noted that many outside therapists’ schedules are full, and that they’re infrequently accepting new patients. They encouraged students to try calling into town, which they can do by referencing a list of all the available counselors in Grinnell and neighboring municipalities provided by SHACS.

Transportation for out-of-town consulting will be provided by Grinnell staff drivers. Students will have to pay for transport, and a trip to Iowa City costs about 100 dollars. Students concerned with confidentiality can opt to have their bill cleared beforehand.

SHACS hopes to hit the first benchmark of employing three full-time equivalent therapists soon, which the representatives understand won’t meet their full need but believe it’s a fitting goal.

In regards to diversity, Dean of Students Andrea Conner added that since 98 percent of the applicant pool for therapists is white female, they were not able to hire nurses who can identify with different groups of Grinnell’s student body. She acknowledged that a more diverse SHACS staff would be beneficial in many ways, but unfortunately they were unable to find qualified applicants who were not white women.

SHACS will also discuss the possibility of group counseling sessions for topics such as drugs, alcohol and eating disorders.

Finally, the issue of increasing the space allocated for SHACS was proposed. Attendees noted that SHACS will need more space in the future, and talks are expected to continue as construction plans and fundraising for the new ARH-Carnegie building are finalized.

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