Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

CAPS, which is a service of Cornell Health, has hired two new therapy staff members.

March 8, 2018

After Staff Hires, Cornell’s Mental Health Service Has Shorter Wait Periods

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Counseling and Psychological Services decreased its wait period compared to last semester after adding two therapy staff positions, and plans to add two more staff members, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, announced in an email on Wednesday afternoon.

“The impact of these hires has been immediate, as wait periods for this semester are shorter than those experienced in the fall,” Lombardi wrote in the email.

It is unclear by how much CAPS reduced its wait periods. University spokesperson Sharon Dittman said the University will respond to The Sun’s inquiry regarding mental health issues “in the near future.”

CAPS director Gregory T. Eells admitted to the Student Assembly in January that the demand for mental health resources far outstrips the services provided by CAPS employees at levels unseen since 1996.

“Unfortunately, last semester wait times were longer than we wanted them to be for other student needs. While we aim to schedule all brief phone assessments within one business day, the wait time was often several days,” Eells told The Sun in an email in January.

“And while we aim to schedule all non-urgent appointments within two weeks, last semester students sometimes had to wait several weeks to a month to see a counselor,” Eells added.

CAPS seeks to add two more counseling positions to further shrink wait time, Lombardi said.

“We realize that demand will continue to grow,” Lombardi wrote. “As such, we will be adding two additional therapy staff positions in CAPS with recruitment beginning immediately.”

In January, the Cornell Chronicle, which is run by the University, issued a statement re-affirming Cornell’s commitment to strengthening its mental health services for students. One of the University’s top three priorities for the semester involved “matching CAPS staffing levels with community expectations for timeliness and frequency of care.”

In the wake of a racial incident in Collegetown last fall, Black Students United demanded that the University hire two more psychologists and psychiatrists of color in September. It is unclear whether these new positions will be staffed by people of color.

However, the January University press release stated that another one of its priorities was “recruiting and retaining talented health care professionals, particularly underrepresented minority staff.”

The third priority was “investing in other key elements of the comprehensive approach to support student well-being, campus health and safety,” according to the Chronicle.

Later this month, the University will also launch a “Coalition on Mental Health” with students, faculty and staff participation under the leadership of Skorton Center, which is tasked with developing mental health related strategies, Lombardi announced in Wednesday’s email.

“We know Cornellians struggle, too,” Lombardi said in the January Chronicle article. “We take this seriously, and are committed to supporting our students’ mental health and well-being at Cornell. While we have made great strides and many improvements over the past decade, we can and will do more.”

The student-led, independent mental health task force launched in February will also take part in the coalition, Natalie Brown ’18, co-chair of the task force, said.

“We were honored to be invited and we’re optimistic about the great work this coalition can do,” Brown said. “With students, faculty and administrators together, we can move forward to improving systems of mental health on campus.”

Lombardi also seeks to improve upon last year’s student surveys concerning mental health.

“We conducted two student surveys about services at Cornell Health in 2017, but the new survey will focus specifically on those students who utilize CAPS. This will provide new and more specific data that will help to inform our practices moving forward,” Lombardi wrote in the Wednesday email.

42.9 percent of students answered that they have been “unable to function academically for at least a week due to depression, stress or anxiety” in the latest 2017 PULSE survey.