Letter to the Editor

Having been employed as a mental health professional for over 25 years, it was disheartening to read of Washington College administrators’ lack of forethought in meeting the ongoing psychiatric medication management needs of students (as outlined in the Aug. 30 and Sept. 6 editions of The Elm).

It is unfortunate that two mental health nurse practitioners retired simultaneously the end of July. It is understandable that locating nurse practitioners with experience in prescribing psychiatric medications before the onset of the 2018 fall semester was and remains to be challenging. The focus in health care at the present time is offering services that are easily accessible, convenient and affordable. Washington College is remiss for not offering alternative options prior to students’ arrival on campus that meet these criteria. It seems coordination and/or contract negotiations should transpire with local nurse practitioners, family practice doctors or medical staff at the University of MD Shore Medical Center (literally adjacent to the campus) to meet the psychiatric medication management needs of students.

The tragic loss of a freshman student’s life this spring should have mental health treatment at the forefront of college administrators’ minds. President Kurt Landgraf outlined the importance of meeting the mental health needs of students in the Washington College Magazine Summer 2018 edition (page 5) noting, “We have to be ready for the unimaginable.” Mental health has no boundaries, therefore proactive measures to offer treatment for mental health issues is imperative.  Medication management is one such measure. The combination of therapy with psychotropic medication is conducive for the most positive treatment outcomes. There are situations in which the stabilization offered by medications can prevent dysfunction and save lives.  I have walked alongside many patients and families who experience frustration with wait lists for medication management. Such wait lists often result in inpatient psychiatric admissions to be prescribed necessary medications proven to be helpful for patients in the past. The use of psychiatric inpatient beds for such a purpose does not reflect resources being utilized wisely.  I have interacted with young adults whose academic goals have been disrupted and thwarted while seeking mental health treatment. The stigma of a mental health diagnosis, sadly, can make a return to campus overwhelming and insurmountable for some students. Cannot Washington College do better for their students by offering support to prevent such a disruption in one’s academic career? A liberal arts education sets itself apart by focusing on the growth of all aspects of life. The social and emotional health of students should take precedent alongside the development of critical thinking skills, communication (written and oral), creativity and collaboration that are at the foundation of a liberal arts education.

Admittedly, across the nation there is a lack of mental health providers and resources to meet the needs of those seeking treatment. I am hopeful that due to the diligence of The Elm so thoughtfully responding to the “gap” regarding psychiatric medication management that this may awaken Washington College administrators to consider other viable options and take immediate action steps towards resolution for students whom they refer to as their family.   


Christina Shenk

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