As scheduled, Harvard University Health Services closed its 10 overnight observation beds in Stillman Infirmary last month, but a planned renovation of the space to expand mental health resources is still pending approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
News that Harvard was shuttering Stillman, a 24-hour inpatient space that often serviced intoxicated students who reported to UHS for nighttime care under the College’s amnesty policy, prompted outcry from students last fall. Last November, The Crimson reported that administrators planned to close the infirmary as part of a broader health services reshuffling. Following student concerns, UHS Director Paul J. Barreira said they would maintain in-person 24-hour urgent care but still close Stillman’s 10 overnight beds.
In February, Barreira said UHS planned to renovate the space to expand same-day appointments and mental health resources by 20 to 25 percent and would likely use reclining chairs and gurneys in place of overnight beds to treat after-hours patient groups. Those included students seeking services for intoxication, mental health concerns, and medical or orthopedic issues.
Barreira initially said administrators hoped that construction would begin this summer, but because the plans have not yet been approved by the state public health department, they are still pending.
UHS spokesperson Lindsey Baker wrote in an email that administrators anticipate a response from the department by the end of the month and declined to provide an updated timeline for construction on the space. In February, Barreira said he expected construction to last through the fall semester.
Now that Stillman has closed, Baker wrote, intoxicated students who report to UHS after hours will remain at the urgent care facility until they are deemed “clinically sober” or be transferred to Mount Auburn Hospital “if medically necessary.” The same protocol was in place before the infirmary’s closure, according to Baker.
According to UHS spokesperson Lara Cameron, 24-hour urgent care services are still available at UHS despite Stillman’s closure and the pause ahead of the planned renovation.
Brett M. Biebelberg ’16, the Undergraduate Council’s Rules Committee chair, said using the summer as a transition period for Stillman is “understandable,” given that there is less demand for medical attention during the summer, when fewer students are on campus. Still, he said he hopes the space will be fully functional during the academic year.
“I hope UHS will make good on its promise to repurpose the space,” he said. “I’m hoping that there won’t be a delay in converting the space into usable space come term time.”
—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.