Wellness Center Aims To Serve The Whole Student


Isabel Shaw, Staff Writer

One of the more important resources that will soon be available to students is the new Wellness Center opening on campus this fall. The center will focus on mental health and physical safety.
Most of the events planned for the Wellness Center will be free and open to everyone. All activities and workshops will be designed to reduce stress and anxiety. A reflection room will be available specifically for meditation or those times when students wish to be alone to debrief and collect their thoughts.
“There will also be opportunities for students who need clinical-based mental health services to obtain assistance at the wellness center,” said Dr. Anita Voogt, Brookdale Community College’s associate vice president of strategic partnerships.
Voogt explained that the center will be partnership-based. “As students come in and have different needs, we are going to be working with partners around the county to provide those services” Voogt said. “If a service is clinical-based and provided by our partners, that service is going to go through insurance.”
The Wellness Center’s partners are a variety of social service agencies around Monmouth County. There will be two areas in the building that will be the consultation rooms, and the partners will be able to share that space. During the week, partnered staff will be on a rotating basis. Students will be referred to meet with their clinical staff either in the Wellness Center when they’re here, or they will be referred to where the partner is located in the community.
The concept of a Wellness Center began with a donation from the Carolyn Huber Foundation. The wishes of the donor were that Brookdale would create a wellness center that would focus on mental health, wellness, and social justice. According to the donor, they wanted the center to be open to Brookdale Students, Brookdale employees and the community.
The new center is in the MAC building in the space that Brookdale’s bookstore several years ago. The groundbreaking for the center is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 26, and the actual ribbon cutting will be in the third week of September, which is National Wellness Week.
We have a 30-member Wellness Center project team trying to coordinate all the pieces, said Voogt. “What is our mission? What programs are we going to offer? What services are we going to offer? And then we must do the outreach to the county to link-up with the right social service agencies,” she said.
The mission statement for the center is to connect students, employees, and community members to campus resources, along with local partners that will support basic needs, enhance individual and community wellness, and promote social justice.
“We are currently in the process of hiring a director,” said Voogt. Everyone has taken on different roles to maintain the momentum of the project rather than waiting for the hiring of someone in April.
That strain on staff will be alleviated when the new director is hired to help coordinate remaining projects and tie up loose ends.
Brookdale already has a full-time social worker, and that social worker’s office will now be in the MAC building. The plan is to have student workers and additional staff as the center grows.
“We are hoping to have the designation of the Wellness Center as a safe space,” said Voogt. The safe space initiative is a national movement for business, organizations, and schools. Brookdale staff will receive the training required to assist any victim of bias crime. Victims can remain at the health center assisted by the center’s staff, until further help arrives.
The food pantry, Helping Hands, is currently located upstairs from where the Wellness Center will be located, so once the center is open, Helping Hands will be relocated downstairs to be a part of the Wellness Center. The pantry provides grab-and-go kind of food and offers additional assistance to students in need.
The center is currently working with The Innovation Network (TIN) to coordinate the landscaping for the courtyard. The goal is to provide a relaxing, peaceful area that encourages students to stop and take a break.
Volunteers are needed to help with the planning and the planting of the garden at the center. Students may receive work or assignment credits, depending on their participation. Contact Gina Giannattasio to be a part of this exciting project. [email protected]