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Psychiatric nurse practitioner joins Mills counseling staff

Psychiatric nurse practitioner Deborah Johnson is excited to work with fellow Mills students as part of the counseling staff. (Richard Pan)
Psychiatric nurse practitioner Deborah Johnson is excited to work with fellow Mills students as part of the counseling staff. (Richard Pan)

The Cowell Building recently opened its doors to a new psychiatric nurse practitioner; Deborah Johnson  joined the Mills counseling staff in February to work with privately insured graduate and undergraduate students.

The recent hire of Johnson is part of a pilot program in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing. At Mills, she will be able to prescribe medication, talk to students about treatment options and provide an outlet for students who are unable to leave the campus for psychiatric help.

“Since this is a pilot program, there are still details to be ironed out, but we are very pleased that this collaboration with UCSF will help us to enhance our mental health service for many students here at Mills,” Dr. Dorian Newton, assistant dean and director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said in an email.

Johnson is currently an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Community Health Systems at UCSF and received her Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate at UCSF. Johnson has a Master of Science, is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and a Board Certified Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse.

 Johnson will be available to students who carry private insurance and different forms of Kaiser Insurance — not those who carry the Student Health Plan. Students with Kaiser Insurance have separate access to psychiatric services through their plans, Dr. Newton said. 

Second-year MFA student Dani Rubinstein-Towler, who has private insurance, thinks that this is a positive change.

“Mills is taking more of a step forward to help students who need mental health counseling,” Rubinstein-Towler said. “Everyone can get some sort of help now.”

Johnson hopes to bring an interdisciplinary approach to counseling. She believes that medicine is only one piece to mental health and strongly recommends students who need medication to get some form of counseling. Johnson said that the new program will bring out the best of what she and psychologists can offer

She is open to learning what’s important for Mills students through mental health and is interested in collaborating and connecting with the staff and students on campus.

Johnson’s office is located in the Cowell Building. Her office hours are on Mondays from 9 AM to 6 PM. Johnson urges students who may need medication over the summer to visit her office early in the spring, to ensure they have prescriptions to last into the fall semester.

Appointments can also be made by calling the Cowell front desk at 510-430-2130.