This semester has brought welcome changes to Counseling and Psychological Services. A new embedded model has brought CAPS services beyond the Michigan Union and to locations that need them the most, especially on North Campus. Furthermore, last week’s launch of a hotline, which is meant to provide psychological services to students during hours when the CAPS office is closed, is especially commendable for its recognition that students need mental health support at all times — not just 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
While CAPS and the University administration should be applauded for their commitment to expand mental health services around campus, these new services are not perfect. The hotline is actually run through ProtoCall, a national and privately owned company that other universities use for similar purposes. CAPS should be sure to remind students that when they use this new hotline, they will not be speaking to a member of the University community.
Instead, they will be speaking to an offsite contractor, who is a mental health professional but may not understand the nuances of the University’s campus in the same way CAPS’ staff does. While these professionals will have the knowledge to refer students to on-campus resources, the use of off-site support does raise the question of why CAPS cannot use the same model as the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center’s 24-hour crisis hotline, which is monitored by SAPAC staff.
Furthermore, this service will only be available when CAPS’ physical offices are closed. Those students who take extra comfort in access to confidential mental health services without having to show their face in a clinic will have access to services they desire, but not at all times.
This isn’t to say CAPS’ recent improvements are not without merit. On Oct. 8, CAPS and the University hosted a National Depression Screening Day, which deserves commendation for its ease of accessibility and proactive approach to helping tudents suffering from depression.
However, while CAPS is making several strides in improving its student services, the lack of consistent information regarding the wait time for consultations is concerning. Last night, CAPS’ “When Can I Be Seen?” page listed the wait time for an Initial Consultation at 11 business days. However, the “Counseling Options” page, detailing what exactly appointments entail, lists the wait time as one to three days. This inconsistency presents extra challenges for students directed to CAPS, especially for a student unsure of what their free online screening might mean.
CAPS’ recent shift to a culture of improvement should be applauded after years of troublingly and sometimes unreliable services. But for mental health services to have the reach and impact this campus so desperately deserves today, CAPS needs to be more transparent by doing two things: explaining to students that the ProtoCall hotline will not be monitored by University staff and clarifying wait times on the CAPS website.