In an effort to provide Andover students with comprehensive health care under one roof, the Board of Trustees decided last week to proceed with the preliminary design phase of a new Wellness Center.
The new center will offer medical care, counseling services, health education, physical therapy and rehabilitation, according to Larry Muench, Director Facilities.
The construction of the new Wellness Center is expected to begin in June 2014 and conclude in August 2015. The architect-selection process, which is currently underway, will finish in May. The building-design phase has yet to begin and is expected to take one year immediately following architect-selection.
Discussions about a new Wellness Center have been ongoing for several years are have been based on internal and external evaluations that were conducted by the school, according to Amy Patel, Medical Director and School Physician.
“Over the last several years there has been increasing collaboration between the different facets of health, so we are not coming up with something that is revolutionary—it has been in the works for many years,” said Patel.
Located on Salem Street between Benner House and Bulfinch Hall, the new center will be more accessible to the community in terms of location and condensation of services. It will have an intelligent design that factors in the natural terrain and also keeps the lines of sight to and from Bulfinch Hall, said Muench.
“We have realized [that] as a community, students do not have the time to get from place to place or even seek the care that they need to take care of themselves when they are sick,” said Patel.
Patel plans to develop a new, more comprehensive health and wellness education program in the coming years as well, building off the current Physical Education and Personal and Community Education (PACE) programs.
“In the wellness program, we hope to enhance health and wellness education. You can google anything, but you will not always get the correct answer. I think it is my job, and the job of other healthcare professionals as well, to show students where to get validated information from,” said Patel.
“The goal is to be proactive and not reactive to health problems. We are hoping that this new wellness initiative will encourage students to be more proactive,” added Patel.
The new center will also allow for increased collaboration between various wellness teams, according to Patel.
“To combine the physiological services and medical services in one building is what we have wanted for a long time. The idea that a student can come to one building, centrally located, and get all their health needs taken care of is something to be excited about. And for the adults, we are looking forward to working together,” said Carol Israel, Associate Director of Counseling.
Patel added, “There is something powerful about the synergy that is created when multiple components of health come together. So, for example, when students are stressed, it is important to recognize that there are overlapping physical and psychological manifestations. Housing both medical and psychological services in the same building would enhance coordination of services and improve care delivery.”
Israel does not anticipate any changes in the counseling process, although the location of the building will most likely increase the number of visitors.
Israel said, “I think that being in the health center will help to fix the stigmas associated with Graham House. I think having the counseling services contained within a health center where kids are having a PACE class, seeing a nutritionist or doing some functional rehab with a trainer will make it easier for kids to feel comfortable in counseling sessions.”
A project team made up of members from the Office of the Physical Plant (OPP), the Senior Administrative Council (SAC), medical specialists, counseling specialists, outside specialists and trustees is currently being assembled to select the architect for this project, said Muench.
With an anticipated cost of several million dollars, the building will most likely be two stories high and accessible from both Salem Street and Highland Road. According to Muench, the funds have yet to be raised.