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Dal offers new “student-centric” health services

by Stephanie Taylor

A move in location plus a shift in programming are new ways the Dalhousie Health Services clinic plans to improve access.
A move in location plus a shift in programming are new ways the Dalhousie Health Services clinic plans to improve access.

Mental health, sexual health and alcohol abuse are the top priorities of Dalhousie’s Student Health Services, says Executive Director of Student Wellness, Verity Turpin. 

A move in location plus a shift in programming are new ways the clinic plans to improve access to health services, she said in an interview Monday. 

Last year, the director of Dal's counselling services along with other department directors, as well as members of the Dalhousie Student Union and Student Health Promotion were brought together to develop a new student wellness strategy. 

After almost a year of consultations with students, Turpin said the team determined there was a need to shift the focus of Dal’s Health Services away from a community model to a more student-centric clinic. 

“All of our programming efforts will be directed at students,” she said, while promising that current community members who are patients at the clinic will notice little change. 

Starting in the fall, Turpin said there will be more outreach and education programs  around sexual health, mental health and alcohol harm prevention. 

Young people from 15 to 24 are more susceptible to suffer mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group, according to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Services. 

Better access to mental health support is one of the university’s main concerns, Turpin says. 

In the past year, Dalhousie Counselling and Psychological Services has directly helped more than 2,500 students from Dal, as well as the University of King’s College and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. 

Anxiety, stress and a lack of sleep are three most common factors post-secondary students across North America say prevent them from achieving their academic goals, Turpin said. 

She describes how Dal’s Health Services will now begin to offer more workshops that focus on helping their students cope with these specific issues. 

International students can also expect to have more support, Turpin says that thanks to new funding and a small increase in student fees, Health Services is in the process of hiring a new personal counsellor who specializes in the needs of international students. 

Of the 18,000 students enrolled at Dalhousie 14 per cent call Canada a second home. 

Students in the faculties of nursing and medicine will have more opportunities to take on new leadership roles in Health Services, Turpin says. These include chances to help facilitate flu clinics and run sexual health workshops under the supervision of trained physicians. 

More flexible appointment hours, better online information about the types of services available, and the hiring of a nurse practitioner for Dalhousie’s downtown Sexton campus are other changes she says students can expect to see. 

A new building is another part of supporting student health, Turpin explains. Starting this week, Health Services will move to the second floor of the LeMarchant Street Mixed Use Building. She believes students will feel more comfortable in the newly designed clinic that offers a spacious waiting area with plenty of natural light and more privacy than the previous location. 

Student Health Services, Dal Counselling and Psychological Services and Student Health Promotion will all be located in the same area, which Turpin says  will make it easier for students to receive the treatment they need. 

“We will be aligning all of our services and all of our outreach and all of our resources to meet students where they are,” she says.

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