By Elena Stuart
Limited funds increase the rift between available resources and in pouring patients to the City College Student Health Services center.
“It’s a perfect storm, we’re going to do the very best we can to maintain the services we have,” Student Health Services Program Director Becky Perelli said.
Between the cost of goods, services, personnel and the decrease in enrollment the center’s financial reserves may be depleted by next year Perelli fears.
“Unlike most other college resource programs we are funded solely by the student health fee,” Perelli said. “We do not get any state monies because we are not a mandated program.”
Charged every semester upon registration the health fee has been $17 since 2009 and will increase to $20 next spring yet there are students unaware of the change.
“There’s a health fee?” said student Rachel De Libertis.
Ultimately Libertis found the fee fair and the increase reasonable.
The center offers to test for sexually transmitted diseases, family planning and a variety of other services.
“I know that you can go for information about [intercourse] and get tested,” said De Libertis.
Aside from a few exceptions such as immunizations, student visits are free of charge and the brightly lit waiting area by the reception is well liked by students waiting for their appointments.
Perelli wants the center to address all dimensions of health and provide related information to students by hosting monthly events and emailing a newsletter to the student body.
“I get the emails but I don’t really read them,” student Erik Elfaro said.
Elfaro hasn’t required the center’s services but is still willing to pay the fee.
“It’s a good thing if I need it,” he said.
Returning student Keith Miller didn’t remember the center’s location but had “used it back in the day.”
Despite some students not utilizing the center patient inflow is high.
Students have experienced long wait times trying to reach the center via telephone and some voicemails weren’t responded to.
According to Perelli there were “glitches and technical difficulties with the phone lines.” She assured the issue was being addressed.
The mental health department is especially impacted by the influx in patients.
In urgent cases procedures are in place to allow student admission immediately; otherwise, students are put on a three-week-long waitlist for an appointment with the mental health department.
“We continue to check with people on the list on a regular basis to see if they need help,” Perelli said who thinks the onrush of mental health patients is due to increased awareness of mental disorders and decreased stigmatization.
“I wish we had more services to offer,” said mental health counselor Bayla Travis. “Putting funds here will definitely benefit students.”
Being able to access both medical and psychological services at the center is a significant benefit because overlaps between medical and psychological issues are common.
“We don’t want to be applying psychiatric interventions when it’s a medical issue,” Travis said emphasizing the importance of having other departments at her disposal.
“I saw a patient today who was here for therapy and told me she had [physical pain].” Travis was able to transfer the student to a nurse practitioner. “She was seen within an hour.”
Student Health Services Department Chair Paula Cahill appreciates being able to provide City College’s diverse student population with medical assistance and health education. “If they have a sore throat or cough or whatever’s going on we do [everything] we can to get them the care they need.”
She believes in helping students succeed by maintaining their health. “What we do here is really important,” Cahill said.