Four months ago, Michigan State University announced a restructuring of health services on campus. The changes came in the wake of the sex crimes committed by Larry Nassar. Those changes have had ramifications with regard to mental health services available to MSU students.
On February 14th, interim MSU President John Engler announced major changes to the university’s medical colleges and student wellness programs. The result, he said, will be a system that provides safe and quality care. Officials also hope that the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse will have their concerns addressed as new services roll out.
The Dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine, Dr. Norman Beauchamp Jr., has begun serving as associate provost and assistant vice president for health affairs. At the February announcement, Beauchamp said that in the wake of the Nassar scandal, MSU needs the restoration of hope perhaps more than any community in the country. "People came to us, young women and their families, and we dissappointed. We failed them," Dr. Beauchamp said at the time. "The need to restore hope could not be greater, and we will do that."
To that end, Michigan State has been moving ahead in making upgrades to mental health services on campus.
Dr. Tony Avellino was brought in from his former position as CEO of OSF Healthcare Illinois Neurological Institute to become the MSU Healthteam’s chief medical officer and assistant provost for student health, wellness and safety. He says mental health is a top priority. "If you look at some recent stats, about a third of college students experience some degree of depression and anxiety," Dr. Avellino explains, "but only 30-percent of college students seek help."
Additionally, Dr. Avellino says that MSU is working to learn from the Nassar case and to heal, "so that all MSU students, athletes, faculty and staff have the safest quality health care and achieve a more peaceful, healthier and purposeful life with optimum performance in mind, body and spirit."
One of the upgrades to mental health services at MSU is the expansion of access to counseling services provided by Morneau Shepell. Dr. Dave Weismantel is MSU University Physician. "We've had a contract with Morneau Shepell, a Canadian company, to provide counseling services to our international students on a virtual basis," Dr. Weismantel states, "on phones and by text, and we've expanded that to include all 50,000 students beginning on June 1st."
All MSU students will have access to counseling services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
Morneau Shepell also provides a smart phone app called “My SSP,” which links a student with a counselor within minutes.
Dr. Weismantel adds the promotion of the app will ramp up when students arrive for the fall semester. "They are able to set up ongoing counseling services through that app," he concludes. "This company provides this service for international students throughout the United States, and we are one of the first if not the first university to have this service for our domestic students."
MSU has also hired Mark Patishnock as the new counseling and psychiatric services director at MSU. He comes from Augusta University in Georgia, where he did similar work on a smaller scale. Patishnock will be staffing a second Counseling and Psychiatric Services location on campus in the MSU Union, joining the first location in the Olin Health Center. Eight to ten counselors and psychiatrists will work in the Union Building office.
Patishnock’s duties will also include evaluating the intake process, with an eye on getting students in for the help they need quickly and back for further services they might need as soon as possible.