Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson gave the student body an update on possible changes to Boe House Counseling Center operations at the Student Government Association’s Oct. 9 Senate meeting.

According to Hanson, the administration has met with six vendors that the College could potentially partner with to deliver counseling services. Hanson also described the function of a new group formed in May 2018 that is meant to aid communication between the administration and the student body.

“The purpose of this group is to share facts, listen to concerns, dispel speculation as we continue to explore how we deliver and enhance counseling services on campus,” Hanson said at the Student Government (SGA) meeting.

This new group includes Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton ’87, Hanson and Boe House Director Steve O’Neill, some students and potentially a faculty member. Eaton will be in charge of communicating with students, Hanson will oversee the financial aspects of the process and O’Neill will contribute his knowledge of psychology and mental health services.

“We continue to explore how we deliver and enhance counseling services on campus,” – Jan Hanson

“At our meeting last week we reviewed the various coverages included in the student health plan offered by the College,” Hanson wrote in an email. “Subsequent meetings will continue to share this type of information to help educate the group.  This education includes looking at research conducted regarding counseling services delivery models. The communications group is a mechanism to share that information with the broader student body for input and feedback.”

The potential partnership with a third-party provider comes amidst College-wide efforts to cut costs and better allocate financial resources.

The administration decided to pause negotiations over the summer, with no significant developments occurring over that period. The process began again recently; the team has already met with six potential vendors, two of which were immediately taken off the list because they don’t provide counseling services.

One vendor focuses on online  and video chat services.  The administration did not think this would benefit students because of Boe House’s strong campus presence through in-person meetings. Another vendor is “piloting counseling services at two east coast campuses,” as Hanson described it, but the vendor needed more time to focus on their current clients before expanding.

Another possible vendor put a greater emphasis on screening for physical causes of mental health issues. This organization might require students to get a physical in order to get a referral for counseling services, raising concerns over accessibility and affordability.

The final vendor Hanson discussed at the Senate meeting is located near St. Olaf, offers telehealth options, already serves a higher education population and has a diverse staff. The major drawback to partnering with this provider, according to Hanson, is that they utilize a health insurance payment model. Students have expressed concerns that such a system would compromise privacy and create financial barriers to access. Hanson reiterated that the administration has not yet made a decision and that options are still being explored.

Hanson also said that the ideal timeline for making a decision would be announcing their choice in May, so that they have time to consult with students before implementing changes at the beginning of the following academic year.

Other changes at Boe House include the hiring of three new counselors from underrepresented groups and the addition of 700 hours to the counseling schedule.