Education  September 10, 2010

Departments share brand-new CSU building

The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which went into effect in July, puts mental health-care services on the same footing with medical/surgical services when it comes to insurance coverage.

The legislation requires group insurance plans to cover the same frequency of treatment and days of outpatient services for mental health coverage as that offered for other types of treatment, with the same deductibles and copayments. Part of the broader health-care reform act signed by President Obama in March, the act does not mandate employers provide mental health coverage, but if it is, there must be parity with other coverages.

Other provisions require equal treatment for medical and mental health prescriptions; out-of-network coverage for mental health services; and the right to an explanation if a mental health service is deemed medically unnecessary by the insurer.

These changes could broaden the availability of mental health services for millions of Americans – and require many more trained professionals to treat them.

Colorado State University already offers a science-heavy curriculum to its majors in psychology. When they graduate, they are qualified to take the state exam for Certified Addiction Counselor I, the basic credential needed to work in a variety of mental health areas.

The university has just made a $45 million investment in their future, with the students themselves making it possible.

CSU has brought together two of the biggest majors on campus – Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies account for about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 45 faculty – into a brand-new building. The Behavioral Sciences Building is to be dedicated on Sept. 15, following President Tony Frank’s annual fall address at 11:30 a.m. The building south of the Clark Building will be open for tours from 1 to 3 p.m., with the formal dedication ceremony held at 2 p.m.

LEED Gold

The building was designed and built to receive LEED Gold certification, with a construction cost of $32 million, by the Denver architectural firm of Bennett Wagner Grody and Pinkard Construction of Lakewood. Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide some of the power for the building, showers in the basement restrooms allow bike riders to freshen up before work, and recycled materials were used wherever possible.

What makes the building even more impressive is that it was funded entirely with student fees. The renovation of Rockwell Hall for the College of Business that opened earlier this year received about $1 million from fees, but also boasts an impressive list of corporate and nonprofit donors. The bonds used to build the Behavioral Sciences Building will be paid off entirely through the fees that the student body assessed themselves for the project.

As a result, the new building is remarkably student friendly, with study or small lounge spaces on every floor, 34 wireless access points throughout, and a coffee lounge with patio seating.

Combined departments, labs

“We’re finally out of the basement,” Ernie Chavez, head of the Department of Psychology, only half-joked. “And it’s the first time our entire faculty has been in one building.”

In fact, the faculty and staff of the Psychology Department will occupy the north half of the second floor of the nearly 93,000-square-foot building as well as share space with faculty and staff of HDFS on the third floor. What’s in the basement now are labs – the EEG lab where brain functions can be measured, and the Driving Simulator Lab.

“What we do, in essence, is put people behind the wheel of a Saturn to see what happens when they are distracted,” Chavez said.

There are more labs in the south wing of the second floor, and each department now has its own seminar and conference rooms, as well as an outdoor terrace for students, faculty and staff on the fourth floor. The three general assignment classrooms on the first floor, which are available to any teacher on campus, are “smart” classrooms, wired to take maximum advantage of computer and communication technology. One has additional equipment to facilitate distance learning and one features a 3D projector and surround sound.

It’s the only 3D classroom in Colorado, but it’s not just for entertainment purposes.

“It lets us teach anatomy, for instance, in a whole new way that helps students understand more rapidly,” Chavez explained. “We can project an image that lets us take students into the brain and down the spinal column, something we’ve never been able to do before.”

The biggest attraction – it takes up space in the basement as well as the first floor – is the 278-seat auditorium, with the latest, greatest and upgradable AV equipment in higher-than-high-definition images and sound. It is also available to the entire campus.

Cross-college collaborations

“This facility is absolutely gorgeous,´ said Lise Youngblade, department head of HDFS. “I’m happy that we are sharing it with Psychology, for the obvious benefits to the faculty and students to be able to do research in brand-new labs, and for the additional impact we can have.”

Part of the departments remained behind in the Gifford Building on moving day in August. Faculty and students collaborate in the Center for Family and Couples Therapy and the Early Childhood Lab School, providing preschool for kids ages 2 through 5. Both clinics are available to the community on a sliding fee scale, and help undergraduates gain the 1,500 hours of internship that they need to earn a psychology degree. They also provide graduate students opportunities for research and training, as well as a one-stop source for services for the public, Youngblade explained.

The next planned cross-college collaboration – HDFS is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences and Psychology is a department within the College of Natural Sciences – is the College Center on Aging to train students in the field of geriatrics. Youngblade estimates that it could be up and running, perhaps as a clinic, in about a year.

The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which went into effect in July, puts mental health-care services on the same footing with medical/surgical services when it comes to insurance coverage.

The legislation requires group insurance plans to cover the same frequency of treatment and days of outpatient services for mental health coverage as that offered for other types of treatment, with the same deductibles and copayments. Part of the broader health-care reform act signed by President Obama in March, the act does not mandate employers provide mental health coverage, but if it is,…

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