Goodbye health; hello wellness

College closes on-campus health center


After almost 15 years of partnership, the CEO of the Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley decided to terminate its contract with Johnson State College last April, resulting in the college’s Health Center resources no longer being available on campus.

The announcement of these changes was relayed to the college community in an email on July 9, informing students that the campus Health Center would no longer provide medical health services and that the nurse practitioner available during weekdays would no longer be staffed on campus as of July 31.

Without these resources available on campus, some students are wondering what negative impact this could have on the college community. Some are concerned that there is no professional on campus to provide medical care for students seeking a quick health assessment or to respond to more urgent situations.

“I think it’s worrisome that we don’t have someone on campus to respond to emergencies,” said Student Corrina Skorker, adding that there should at least be someone to respond to sports-related injuries.

“I’d feel a lot safer with a nurse practitioner on campus, even if they had limited hours,” said Student Kate Hamilton, suggesting that a nurse practitioner be staffed on campus at least one or two days a week. “It seems very silly that they think that [the shuttle] has solved all the problems.”

JSC student Catherine Church wonders about potential legal problems. “It seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen,” she said.
Michele Whitmore, associate dean of students at Johnson State College, said that there were challenges with providing the health care model that students needed and issues with staffing nurse practitioners on campus through the Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley (CSHLV).

“It became more challenging to provide that level of service that we wanted to with the level of experience we felt we needed. They realized that as well, and that’s why they ended the relationship,” said Whitmore.

Whitmore says that not only was it difficult to have regularly staffed nurse practitioners available on campus, but the health center was also averaging only about five to seven patients a week.
“I think that also is the reason why CSHLV decided to pull the partnership. Financially they were probably not able to sustain it because they were not getting the business they expected on a college campus,” said Whitmore.

The new option for students seeking medical services is now a free shuttle traveling the 8-mile route from the Johnson State College campus into Morrisville to the Morrisville Family Health Services, where nurse practitioners will be able to provide the same medical services as the Health Center did. Appointments with the Morrisville Family Health Services must be scheduled prior to departure.

For some students, this is a reasonable alternative to access medical services with the added benefit of the shuttle being able to drop students off in the Morrisville Plaza, which includes Price Chopper and Kinney’s Drugs.

“While we may not be able to provide the upper echelon of services that students may need, we want to make sure we’re finding the best compromise for our students,” said Whitmore regarding to the new options.

However, some students remain skeptical of these new alternatives to readily accessible campus-based health services.

“I could see this going fine or I could see this going really wrong depending on how the year goes,” said Elizabeth Winchell.
Both Hamilton and Winchell regularly took advantage of the services the campus Health Center offered, saying they believed it was an extremely convenient resource and important for the health and well-being of the campus community.

Skorker said she thinks that students will be less inclined to seek medical care now that a scheduled 20-minute shuttle trip into Morrisville is needed to meet with a nurse practitioner.

Hamilton and Winchell also both felt the shuttle hours will be very inconvenient for many students. The shuttle service schedule is Monday to Friday, with three departure times each day at 12:30p.m., 2p.m. and 3:30p.m., which are during class times for many students.
“They should have a shuttle on weekends, because I know lots of people who push off going to doctor until the weekend, because that’s when they have time,” said Winchell.

Despite the campus Health Center no longer offering medical health services, the offices are now being used for the new campus Wellness Center, which provides individual counseling, group counseling, health education, light therapy, substance abuse counseling, biofeedback, and some over- the-counter medications.
Scheduled appointments can be made for Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday 9a.m. to 12p.m., according to Whitmore.
These changes do not affect the student health insurance provided by the college. The college’s health insurance is a completely separate requirement and not affiliated with the former Health Center or current Wellness center, according to Whitmore.

Whitmore is encouraging students to come to her with any concerns, complaints or comments so that the college is able to do all it can to give the students what they need and deserve.

“I’m really hoping that students will share with the college what they feel is working well for them in regards to health care services and what they would like to see change,” Whitmore said.

“It’s a change for the school,” said Winchell. “It will take adjustments and some figuring out in order to make it work.”