4-2-18 Student Health Center

The Student Health Center rests at its location on LSU's campus on Monday, April 2, 2018.

Is the Student Health Center doing everything they can to meet the needs of students?

From the mental health department to the women’s health center to the now closed pharmacy, students are questioning whether the Student Health Center is addressing students concerns.

One student tried to seek help at the mental health center during a time of crisis only to be told to come back in four weeks.

Sarah*, a University student from Florida was depressed and had a hard time getting out of bed.

Sarah’s mother told her to go to the Student Health Center for an emergency appointment. She was able to see an intern who asked if she was suicidal.

“She said no, but said she has thought about how she would kill herself,” Sarah’s mother said. “They said they’ll see her in four weeks. I was really genuinely afraid we were going to have to withdraw her from school. Four weeks is just not acceptable.”

The director of mental health services John Otzenberger said the department has 14 therapists for roughly 42,000 students.

“Yes, we can always add more therapists, and that would help to some degree, and we have added therapists in the past, but there’s a space issue, as well,” Otzenberger said.

The mental health center provides group therapy and seminars in addition to individual therapy. They also can provide a case manager to help students find treatment off campus if necessary.

Otzenberger said the health center has a licensed professional on call on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. if immediate attention is needed.

“We will handle the situation pretty efficiently,” Otzenberger said. “We’re not just going to turn you loose and see you once and say good luck.”

Otzenberger said they have 19 different group therapy programs that can help students while they are waiting for an individual appointment. The current wait time for an appointment is about four to five weeks.

The department recently started a mental health information group that provides information on the services offered and other options for those waiting for an appointment.

Sarah’s mother said her daughter could not have gotten through it on her own, so she sent her to a therapist off campus.

“I would’ve done that anyway,” Sarah’s mother said. “I just thought there should have been somebody she could talk to in a much shorter time frame. When someone goes in for a crisis appointment, four weeks does not handle a crisis.”

Graduate student Rachel Howatt said she had to make three appointments at the Student Health Center before being able to talk about birth control options.

Howatt went to the main medical clinic for a check-up in December and was told she had to attend a one-hour class before discussing birth control options. As a graduate student who teaches undergraduate students, Howatt said she felt uncomfortable taking the class.

“It kind of makes my health public if any of them had been in the room with me, which I think is really inappropriate,” Howatt said.

Howatt said the class provided good information about what to expect when visiting a gynecologist for the first time and her options for birth control, but it was stuff she already knew.

After taking the class, she was able to schedule an appointment to discuss her options in March.

“The whole process is really annoying,” Howatt said. “Requiring people to go to a one-hour class really slows down the process.”

Nurse Practitioner Michaelyn Brabham, who teaches the class, said it became their policy for patients to attend the class before prescribing birth control about 10 years ago.

Brabham said the class helps them see more patients because it shortens appointment times. The women’s health clinic waiting period is about two weeks.

“Most of the girls have never been on birth control before,” Brabham said. “They don’t even know what it’s about or how it’s working in your body.”

The class provides information about annual exams, how birth control works and different birth control options.

Brabham said they continue doing the class because they have gotten good feedback.

“I think it’s good they get to see a face and know it’s not scary,” Brabham said. “It helps people feel a little more comfortable coming into things.”

The pharmacy in the health center has recently closed after being open for one year. The pharmacy at LSU was a full-service pharmacy that offered over-the-counter drugs, flu and cold kits, vaccines and much more.

Graduate student Sydney Epps has been collecting postcards with student opinions about the University’s pharmacy closing.

Graduate student Michaela Stone said she was always able to walk in and get what she needed from the pharmacy on campus.

“It’s really frustrating for me because the pharmacy that they’ve transferred prescriptions to is routinely out of stock of the medication I need,” said Stone.

*Editor’s Note: The subject of this story asked to remain anonymous. The Daily Reveille elected to use a fictitious name, “Sarah,” to preserve her identity.

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