The Wellness Center is a vital asset to maintaining the physical and mental health of St. Mary’s College of Maryland students. Therapists, psychiatric care, and physical examinations are available for no immediate cost to the students. However, the lack of ample staff has made this semester a bit of a mess for students seeking out for help.
One of the advantages of the Wellness Center is that it allows students who need to see a psychiatrist the opportunity if they need medication prescriptions refilled. However, as dedicated as the on-campus psychiatrist is, he is only available on Tuesdays. With that kind of limited availability, appointment slots fill up quickly. If a student tries to make an appointment a bit later in the semester, such as late September or early October, and is told that there are no appointments available for at least a month, the student will be left without medication that they need for an entire month, maybe longer. For anyone who has not gone off their medications before, it is absolute hell. This hypothetical student has to go through an entire month of mental hell because they were a little bit late making an appointment.
It is the same with the therapists as well. They are very skilled and dedicated to their jobs but availability is a huge issue. One personal issue that I faced was that I made an appointment for 11:00 a.m. on November 4. I received a phone call at 8:00 a.m. on November 4 that my appointment slot was no longer available and I had to reschedule to November 25, nearly three weeks later. While it is true and understandable that sometimes therapists have to reschedule due to other patients who have mental emergencies, it is usually made clear that the rescheduling is happening because there was an emergency and that schedules had to be rearranged. I was simply told that my appointment slot was no longer available. In addition to this, most non-emergency rescheduling needs to be made at least 24 hours before the appointment, yet this rescheduling took place three hours prior. So if students who are struggling with mental health are completely at the mercy of the schedule, than it puts so many students who need assistance in a very dangerous position as they are left completely without help.
In addition to this, there is no PA and only one RN on campus. This puts the physical care aspect of the Wellness Center at risk. It means that there is even less staff available to help students, and if a student has a complicated health problem, they are out of luck. They will need to take extra time, time they may not have, to drive to the hospital, or enlist a friend to drive them if they do not have a license, and pay extra money that, again, they may not have, to get help for their problem. Not to mention if a student does not have insurance or their insurance is not accepted by MedStar or any other urgent care centers around, then the Wellness Center might be their only hope for getting help for their problem.
This is not to say that the Wellness Center is unprofessional, far from it, actually. It is truly a blessing for students to get free healthcare within walking distance. But the availability, or lack-thereof, and the lack of staff is a problem for all parties involved. Without available staff, students do not get the care that they need as the staff that is there, stretch themselves too thin trying to meet the needs of all the students they do see. In order to get the Wellness Center running smoothly, lots of things need to change, but how is the Wellness Center going to function moving forward? With the recent Wellness Center speak out, it seems that they do care about working properly and making things easier for students. They have also added a new 24 hour hotline to make care for student mental health much more accessible. But until the administration offers more funding that the Center needs and hires more employees to work with the Wellness Center, students will continue to have difficulties getting the care they need.