William & Mary recently announced a long-term, strategic partnership with VCU Health to significantly increase its capacity to provide access to health care on campus starting this fall. Included in the agreement is management of an extensive, university-wide COVID-19 testing program for students, faculty and staff.
The partnership will also expand the university’s health care in several unique categories for students, including general care support, mental health services and comprehensive orthopedic and sports medical coverage.
“This agreement greatly expands our services and allows William & Mary to closely align with a leading university health center,” said W&M President Katherine A. Rowe. “Our partnership with VCU Health will support immediate needs during the pandemic while also providing the W&M community long-term access to a broad network of exceptional medical and mental health services. This is a terrific example of the kind of innovative collaboration that is essential to the success of a world-class university.”
William & Mary and VCU Health are in the process of finalizing a 10-year contract with two five-year renewal options. The contract was awarded following a competitive bidding process conducted by a university selection committee with representatives from student affairs, athletics, human resources, and university operations.
The alliance with a third-party health care provider is the first of its kind at W&M. This is also the first partnership with another university for VCU Health, which boasts a vast network of providers that offer a wide range of health care services.
“I am proud of this unique partnership that brings VCU Health’s comprehensive services to the William & Mary community and residents of Williamsburg,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System. “I look forward to serving the William & Mary and Williamsburg communities in a more robust way. Especially in these unusual times, we are better together.”
Expanded health services
VCU Health will provide enhanced support services in conjunction with the on-campus Student Health Center and for the Counseling Center, including mental health services to the student population and medical options for staff and faculty.
Additionally, it will administer sports medicine and orthopedic care to the university’s athletics department, as well as club sports, intramural sports and other related areas of the University’s Health and Wellness division.
The new partnership takes William & Mary’s health care to a new level, said Kelly Crace, W&M’s associate vice president for health & wellness. It blends W&M’s existing resources with those of a top-notch university health organization in VCU Health, he added.
“This is a very unique hybrid where we are developing a collaborative partnership to really enhance the breadth and depth of our resources for the health and safety and wellness of our community,” said Crace.
An expansive testing program
VCU Health will also manage the university’s COVID-19 testing program that expects all students to be tested before returning to campus. VCUHS will continue prevalence testing among students and employees throughout the semester in order to track positivity results and modify operations, if warranted. During the semester, William & Mary will provide dedicated housing for quarantine and isolation for residential students who require it. In addition, employees will also have access to optional testing, partially subsidized by the university, if desired. Finally, all students and employees will be able to sign up for “exit testing” as they leave campus in November, as an additional precaution for their home communities.
Creation of a clinic serving campus and the community
“We are finalizing the details on a long-term arrangement that will provide VCU Health with quality clinical space in close proximity to the campus,” William & Mary contracts manager Bill Vega said.
As part of this partnership, VCU Health will occupy the building at 332 North Henry St. The facility is owned by the W&M Real Estate Foundation and leased by the university. The university will extend a long-term sublease to VCU Health as part of this arrangement. Located near campus, the new clinic will be equipped with patient rooms and imaging technology and will be accessible to anyone, not just the university community, Vega said. Services at the North Henry St. location will be available once renovations are complete.
“It will be available to the Williamsburg community as an outpatient center,” Vega said. “So it will not only serve William & Mary, but it helps the community as well.”
Until that facility is available, VCU Health will have temporary sites available on campus to support COVID testing.
Supporting immediate needs
The William & Mary-VCU Health partnership comes at a time where health care needs are heightened because of COVID-19.
“We’re going to be good thought partners on how to best respond to the continued health and safety guidelines for those in our campus community and the greater Williamsburg area, so VCU Health is going to partner with us in the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of those who are managing the virus,” Crace said.
“VCU Health is also going to be a really important part of us recognizing that during this time of pandemic conditions and during this time of social unrest, there’s increased anxiety and there’s a lot of chronic uncertainty that really causes a level of mental strain and emotional strain among our community members. Our behavioral health partnership with them is going to really help us tend to the mental health needs of our community that are going to be more amplified this year than they have been in the past.”
Crace said VCU aligns completely with William & Mary’s mission to provide integrative wellness, which includes many dimensions – emotional/mental, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.
“Having a collaborative partner to help us manage the demand that we have is really exciting,” Crace said. “VCU Health really understands our mission of integrative wellness, and they really want to be a part of that vision with us.”
Nathan Warters is a communications specialist at William & Mary.
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