Online Counseling Coming to Western

Online Counseling Coming to Western

GREEN RIVER — Western Wyoming Community College Dean of Students Dr, Dustin Conover presented the Board of Trustees with a proposal for online counseling Thursday evening.

The idea won unanimous approval from the trustees that were present at board’s meeting Thursday at Western’s Green River campus. The decision by the board allows requests for proposals (RFPs) to begin. Board President James Jessen, and trustees Kenneth Lorimer, Jenissa Meredith, Ron Wild, and Neil Kourbelas voted to support putting online counseling out to bid. Trustees Regina Clark and Stephen Allen were absent from the meeting.

“Online counseling has been identified as a substantial need,” Conover said.

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He said some online students at Western are in remote locations and have difficulty getting to campus for counseling services, thus the need for online mental health counseling to be made available. The online services would be accessible 24/7, starting in Fiscal Year 2024. The online counseling services would also be available to campus students who may feel more comfortable with that method or who need it in a crisis.

“There are multiple occurrences each year where a student is in crisis, usually in the residence halls and in the middle of the night and needs immediate licensed counseling services to help determine the best course of action for the safety of the student,” Conover explained in a memorandum to the board.

Conover’s memorandum stated, “Utilizing a 24/7 crisis intervention service will provide immediate assistance to students in crisis where the online licensed counselor can assess the situation, provide necessary support and intervention, and then reach out to our licensed counselors and/or Protective Services if there is imminent danger to the student for appropriate actions to then be taken.”

The mental health counseling would be vendor-provided and would not involve hiring new staff. Conover estimated the approximate cost at $60,000.

Currently, the protocol for dealing with a student in crisis is for Protective Services to reach out to the on-call Wellbeing & Accessibility counselor, who may have to come to campus to meet with the student. This can be difficult due to distance to be traveled and/or winter driving conditions.

Want to Buy a Dorm?

Vice President for Administrative Services Burt Reynolds gained approval from the trustees to put Aspen Hall up for sale. Reynolds said that during the academic year Aspen Hall was home to only 280 residents, whereas the residence hall can accommodate up to 420 students. 

Reynolds said Aspen Hall has not recovered its student population from pre-COVID days, and in fact, even before COVID, Aspen Hall had begun to lose student residents. Aspen Hall is on Gateway Drive and is separated from the Western campus.

Proceeds from the sale of Aspen Hall would be used to pay for upgrades at other residence halls, Reynolds said. He added that even if Western has an annual student growth rate of 4 percent, ”which is probably high; it’ll probably be more like 1 percent ” Aspen Hall would not be needed for another 17 years.

Reynolds’ proposal did not go unchallenged. Trustee Lorimer questioned Reynolds about the idea of selling off a residence hall that may be needed again at some future point.

Reynolds said Aspen Hall was built in 2005 and most buildings that are similar to it have an expected functional lifespan of about 50 years. Thus, if Western held on to Aspen Hall for another 17 years until it would be needed again to house students, it would be approximately 35 years old by then and likely already in need of major upgrades.

“We have other residence halls that need upgrades,” Reynolds reiterated, “and we could apply the sale money to needs at other dorms.”

Other Business

Trustees approved a “General Data Protection Regulation” proposal, implementing “a new policy regarding the process of collection, use, storage and disclosure of information of employees, students, alumni, applicants, and other consumers that is consistent with the European Union,” according to the memo outlining the need for the proposal.

The new policy has been designated as 2180B. Given Western’s broad-based student body, the European Union sets standards for collection of information pertaining to citizens of European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) countries.