The University of Michigan’s Counseling and Psychological Services faculty delivered a letter to the desk of Martino Harmon, vice president of student life, on Tuesday morning. In the letter, obtained by The Michigan Daily, CAPS staff described a perceived employee turnover crisis within the office, which the signed clinicians believe to be because of a lack of competitive salary. The letter requested that Harmon responds by March 7.
Shortly after placing the letter on Harmon’s desk, Dr. Reena Sheth, an embedded psychologist at the Law School, spoke in an interview with The Michigan Daily about how the letter is an attempt to initiate conversations with the administration about instating a competitive salary. Sheth said she believes the lack of a competitive salary can negatively affect students because passionate mental health staff often leave for more lucrative opportunities.
“One of the ways they can support us is by coming forward in dialogue,” Sheth said. “So the letter is an invitation to Dr. Martino Harmon and the administration to begin this dialogue with us about a competitive salary. Because if you don’t have passionate mental health staff that are really dedicated to the wellbeing of students, then it is a little bit of a struggle.”
According to the open letter, CAPS has lost 16 full-time licensed clinicians out of a staff of 37 in the past 18 months. The letter also stated that a report from the International Accreditation of Counseling Services’ visit last year mirrored their concerns about the turnover crisis. IACS stated that the salary of CAPS employees was inconsistent with that of similar positions at different institutions.
The letters emphasized the importance of CAPS’ purpose on campus and the need for CAPS to be able to continue functioning as an office to provide adequate mental health care to U-M students.
“(CAPS employees) are extremely passionate about the mental health of our Michigan students,” the letter read. “We are at the forefront of creating and maintaining a thriving student community in alignment to University of Michigan’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion values. We request your immediate attention on this matter to ensure that Michigan students continue to have rapid access to mental health care services on campus.”
University spokesperson Kim Broehuizen wrote to The Daily in an email that the University continues to value the mental health of the campus community.
“The University of Michigan is committed to the health and well-being of our entire campus community — students, staff and faculty,” Broekhuizen wrote. “This includes providing a robust continuum of care that adapts to and supports the well-being and mental health of our entire community.”
Dr. Ashley Jacob, an embedded psychologist for LSA students, told The Daily she wants to retain the staff at CAPS and enable them to support themselves financially.
“With mental health demands continuing to rise, we really want to retain our staff,” Jacob said. “And we really want to also be able to take care of our own livable wage needs.”