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Columbia provides update on undergraduate health and wellness initiative

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

As chair of the JED Steering Committee, Dean James J. Valentini recently provided an update to students regarding Columbia’s multi-year plan to assess undergraduate health and wellness resources, which included 14 key objectives.

“Through the JED assessment, I believe Columbia has demonstrated its willingness and acceptance of the need to create change in our community,” said Steering Committee member Shyamolie Biyani CC’18. “Sitting on the JED committee really allowed me insight into every decision, which does and will continue to take time to evaluate.”

Comprised of Columbia faculty, staff and students, the JED Steering Committee has been working closely with JED Campus to better understand the wellness needs of the undergraduate community at Columbia.

“Improving the Columbia experience would not be possible without the dedication of students, faculty and staff,” said Melody Gomez GS’19, also a member of the JED Steering Committee. “Each next step will take into account every possible outcome to implement better strategies affecting wellness and mental health.”

While implementation of the strategic plan is just beginning, developments to enhance student health and well-being have already begun. At the College, mental health and community-building programming increased at new student orientation, with student feedback from those sessions being used to guide ongoing improvements throughout the year. The College provided gatekeeper training for all staff last year, and recurring sessions will be available as new people join the community. An expansive “Columbia College Student Resources” web page is continuously updated, with more online resources pertaining to health and wellness to be developed in the coming months.

Serving more than 23,000 students across the University, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) has expanded the number of clinicians to 43 full-time staff — psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers — over the past four years, an increase of 53 percent.

CPS also added two new drop-in locations to the 8 satellite offices already on campus, and will provide students with wait notifications through text messaging. They now offer 20 support groups and workshops on a broad and diverse range of topics, based on the student community’s needs and feedback, including groups for veterans and first-generation students, as well as expanded offerings around sexual gender and identity concerns.

In addition, Columbia Health has begun designing a new comprehensive health history questionnaire for all incoming undergraduate students. In continuing efforts to increase access to care, they will pilot the addition of psychologists to primary medical care services this semester, and are launching a new website later this month to continue their work in creating a greater awareness of health wellness services.

To meet each of the 14 objectives in the JED Campus Assessment, the JED Steering Committee is assembling working groups, with representation from across the University, tasked with drafting detailed action plans. The composition of the working groups, along with specific plans and progress for each group, will be shared with the community in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, JED will continue to help Columbia track its progress and provide guidance. The JED Steering Committee remains focused on enhancing the well-being for all Columbia undergraduates and future students, working together with University partners to enact these efforts.

When asked about the most effective way to make change on campus, Biyani said,“We need empathy to create a community for ourselves, and this won’t happen alone.”