Marsha Medalie, Riverside Community Care CEO, cuts the ribbon for the new center on Lesley's campus. Pictured (l-r): Anthony Bussolari, Marsha Medalie, Lesley President Janet Steinmayer, Tracy Greenfield
On a sunny fall day, a small gathering of mental health clinicians and administrators made history as they cut the ribbon officially opening the Riverside Outpatient Center at Cambridge. It is one of the first, if not the first, licensed behavioral health centers located on a college campus.
“This is a spectacular and groundbreaking initiative,” says Marsha Medalie, Riverside Community Care CEO. “We think this model may be one that can be replicated across the country in response to the crisis of access to care for students.”
“For me, today is really a miracle,” said Lesley President Janet Steinmayer, referencing the hard work and collaboration that took place to bring the center to fruition.
Within seven months, Riverside and Lesley recruited clinical leadership, therapists and administrative staff, developed systems and protocols for patient safety and privacy and renovated the entire fifth floor of the Schwartz Building into comfortable and welcoming reception and counseling space.
“At Lesley, we train more counselors and therapists in New England than any other college or university. We have an obligation to enlighten and advocate for change,” said Steinmayer.
An estimated 39 percent of students in college experience a significant mental health issue and suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults. University faculty and staff are seeing increasing levels of anxiety, stress, suicide, addiction and ADHD among students who require immediate and long-term support.
Lesley’s Counseling Center, which provides short-term counseling services, workshops, mindfulness sessions and wellness programming, were challenged like all colleges to find outside therapists for those students who need longer-term care, according to Tracy Greenfield, interim director of the center.
Currently, universities must refer students outside of their own systems for this level of support and the current networks of mental health providers are fractured and insufficient, leaving a concerning gap in care for vulnerable students.
The new Riverside center and its three counselors offers weekly therapy and psychopharmacology as well as access to the non-profit’s extensive network of counselors and psychologists with broad areas of specialization, including counselors with deep expertise in working with people from historically underrepresented backgrounds, neurodiverse communities, diverse gender and sexual orientations and other specific needs.
“While the Outpatient Center has only been open for a handful of weeks, our clinicians are already seeing members of the Lesley community, and we’re getting great feedback that we’re helping people develop positive coping skills and process their challenges. I want everyone to know that we’re a welcoming, friendly group of people. Anyone can call or email us, and we’ll help them figure out the next steps … we’re here to help,” said Anthony Bussolari, program director of Riverside Outpatient Center at Cambridge.
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