Montgomery County Community College recently received a $1.1 million Community Mental Health Services Block Grant from Montgomery County to open a Wellness Center at its Pottstown Campus in 2022 and continue its Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) program.
These funds were targeted by the State for community colleges to support the higher education of individuals experiencing mental health challenges. The grant provides $100,000 for MCCC’s POWER Program. This free program helps individuals in mental health and addiction recovery develop and reach their educational and career goals through a two-credit college course that focuses on college and career preparation skills. Since the POWER Program started in 2006, it has served nearly 600 students.
The grant provides $1 million for MCCC’s new Wellness Center, which will be located on the first floor of the College’s North Hall building, 16 West High Street, Pottstown.
“Long before anyone heard of COVID-19, Montgomery County Community College recognized that many students struggled in their classes because they needed help with essential needs, such as physical and mental well-being, food and housing security, transportation and family care, among others,” said Nichole Kang, Wellness Center Director. “The pandemic and its lingering impact have amplified those needs.”
According to the results of a recent Healthy Minds Survey involving 707 MCCC students, approximately 80% of the participants said that mental health was affecting their schoolwork, said Kang.
“With COVID and isolation, there has been a new pressure on students to get back to normal,” she said. “However, students may have parents who are unemployed, lost family members or are experiencing lingering effects from having COVID.”
Aligned with MCCC’s holistic approach to student support and success, the Wellness Center will offer comprehensive assistance for individual needs, expanding some of MCCC’s existing programs and adding new support services.
“There will be an educational space to provide wellness programming to students and staff/faculty, and meeting space where students can get help for their non-academic needs from a resource coach and connect with peers,” Kang said. “We’ll also have private space for in-person mental health therapy provided by partner organizations, which will be available to both students and community members.”
The onsite services will augment the existing online services that are available at no cost to all students, which includes asynchronous chat and live telehealth therapy.
The Wellness Center will house MCCC’s Stock Up for Success food pantry with refrigerators for produce and dairy products, as well as freezers. The pantry also includes toiletries and personal care items.
“With the expanded pantry space, we’ll be able to increase the food offerings,” said Kang, noting that MCCC will collaborate with Gwynedd Mercy University on a food insecurity project, receiving food from the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities and Manna on Main Street.
The Wellness Center will create a convenient, central location for services, including Veterans Services, the ACT 101 Scholars Program and the Keystone Education Yields Success program, which will have offices in the Wellness Center.
Overall, the Wellness Center will be an open and welcoming space where students can feel comfortable and find community.
“We’ll have a sensory space for students on the autism spectrum who may have sensory needs or for students who simply need to unplug and decompress,” Kang said. “There will be space for meditation and prayer.”
To help manage and coordinate the services, MCCC will be hiring a Wellness Center manager and a part-time resource coach. The College will be starting construction for the Wellness Center during the spring 2022 semester.