As Bowdoin welcomes Dr. Christine Mahoney as the new director of health services and Dr. Shannon Jackson as the new director of counseling services, the two offices are restructuring under an integrated care model for stronger collaboration in providing care to students.
Integrated care models combine primary medical care with mental health services when attending to a patient, as opposed to the traditional approach in which medical care and mental health care are treated separately. Integrated care models are also known as patient-centered models because they more efficiently and holistically assess and care for the well-being of a patient. At Bowdoin, implementing an integrated care model has included increasing the connection and collaboration between Health Services and Counseling Services.
“Having sort of a one-stop shop where both a student’s physical health needs and mental needs can be addressed tends to result in a reduction of duplicated services and not having to go to a bunch of different places,” Jackson said.
Previously, Health and Counseling existed separately, aside from both being a part of the Division of Student Affairs. To deepen communication and planning between the two, Student Affairs created the position of Executive Director of Health and Counseling Services, which is held by former Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes. This new role oversees both offices and allows for responsibilities to be shared among the three directors of Health and Counseling.
“The overall vision is that we will all have a little bit more capacity than the one person trying to do three jobs. There’s gonna be more parts and more capacity, and we’ll be able to sort of fuse those departments a little bit better with a little more coordinated care,” Mahoney said.
For Hayes, an integrated care model for Bowdoin has been on her mind for some time, and she is excited about the predicted increase in quality of care for students and satisfaction for Health and Counseling staff.
“The idea that Health and Counseling would start to integrate makes me very happy. I have long thought—probably since I started as director [of health services]—that it made so much more sense that Health and Counseling work together,” Hayes said.
Health and Counseling are exploring multiple ways in which this integrated care model can be implemented on the patient-care level. One idea Health and Counseling are considering is having a therapist or psychiatrist available at the Health Center, allowing practitioners to incorporate the resources of Counseling as they see fit for a patient’s treatment.
“If [a patient] has multiple issues, [staff] can say ‘I’m doing this on a physical level,’ ‘I’m doing this on the mental health level,’ and then come up with an integrated health care plan,” Hayes said.
Additionally, the offices are looking into having students sign a joint waiver for both Health and Counseling to have access to confidential information in coordinating care. Currently, the two offices have separate confidentiality forms, and thus confidential information needs to be released by a student to the other office on an as-needed basis. A joint waiver would streamline this process, but Hayes assured that students would be able to revoke this waiver at any point in their Bowdoin career if Health and Counseling pursue this option.
Crucial to the transition to the new model, Hayes noted, is the experience and knowledge of the new directors of health and counseling services.
Mahoney comes to Bowdoin from the Telluride Regional Medical Center in Colorado, where she led public education efforts and raised awareness during the Covid-19 pandemic with the town’s public health department. She believes this multi-organization cooperation sets her up well for the implementation of the integrated care model at Bowdoin.
“I had a lot of exposure to that sort of coordinated care and shared vision and approach to problem solving,” Mahoney said.
Having spent almost 20 years in higher education, Jackson has worn many hats as a practicing psychologist, lecturer and counseling director, and he’s looking forward to continuing to work in a collegiate setting.
“There’s nothing like being on a college campus. There’s just such energy, hopefulness, enthusiasm and also a lot of stress and other things going on, but there’s really no other place I’d rather be working,” Jackson said.
For Hayes, both Jackson and Mahoney’s variety of experiences before Bowdoin and commitment to student wellness create the perfect environment for getting the new integrated care model off the ground as well as the future of Health and Counseling.
“I feel like Bowdoin has won the Directors of Health and Counseling lottery,” Hayes said. “[Jackson and Mahoney] are both amazing people in their own right and just amazing providers and directors.”