Students at the University at Albany have an on-campus medical center for the first time in over a decade. As WAMC’s Jesse King reports, the new Health & Counseling Services Center is now open.
The $2 million, 35,000-square-foot facility moves Student Health Services, Counseling & Psychological Services, and the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research from 400 Patroon Creek Boulevard to UAlbany’s Dutch Quad. University President Havidán Rodríguez helped cut the ribbon on the center, which includes 19 exam rooms, 24 counseling offices, and a pharmacy.
“This new, accessible, and state-of-the-art facility not only brings responsive medical and psychological services to where students live and learn, but it also will provide them a wide range of holistic resources and training using evidence-based practices," says Rodríguez.
Some of those resources can be found in the facility’s meditation room, where students can attend “napping” classes to improve their sleep quality. It’s complete with yoga mats, pillows, candles, and a light therapy lamp to help with anxiety or depression. Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Estela Rivero says the room is just one example of the careful planning that went into the space.
“So, for example, the privacy needs of students who come for counseling had to be considered, and there’s film on all these windows to ensure the privacy of those who walk in the hallways," Rivero explains. "[We had to consider] how do patients flow through the area, how do they get from here to there, where the reception desk would be…We have a nurse, for example, who oversees the waiting area just to ensure that everybody’s well as they’re waiting for us.”
Rivero foresees increased use at the center – even above the old one’s nearly 11,000 appointments and 8,000 prescriptions last year. But upgrades aside, Student Association President Desann Chin-Carty says the new location, nestled between dorms and already-popular destinations like the school’s athletic fields, is crucial. The sheer trek via shuttle to Patroon Creek Boulevard, she says, would often prevent students from getting help.
“I myself didn’t go to the health center because I didn’t have time – especially as a president – I didn’t have time to go back and forth," says Chin-Carty. "And a lot of us students are involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities, so I didn’t have time to necessarily take 40 minutes out of my day to go to an appointment, then 40 minutes back, in addition to the appointment.”
The new center comes smack-dab in the middle of a particularly rough flu season in New York, with over 57,000 cases reported since October. Mental health has itself become a major concern for universities nationwide – a report published by the Journal of Adolescent Health says 41.1 percent of college students faced moderate to severe depression in 2018. While schoolwork can be stressful, Chin-Carty says students also struggle to navigate finances, relationships, social media, and the everyday stresses of living on your own. And everyone’s situation is different.
“We have a very large population of first-generation students here at the university," notes Chin-Carty. "Those stresses are things they don’t necessarily get support with. It starts to impact them on their mental health, their psychological health, their morale, where they see themselves…So I think, by having [the health center] here on campus, it just [shows] to us that it really is important for us to take care of ourselves – because it’s a priority, it’s right here. Now there's no reason for us not to.”
The new Health & Counseling Services Center is part of a $33 million project to renovate Dutch Quad’s former Beverwyck and Schuyler Halls, financed with bonds issued by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.