Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell Health on Sept. 23, 2019.

November 12, 2019

Mental Health Service Wait Time Decreased by 22 Days Since Reforms, CAPS Officials Say

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Earlier this semester, Cornell Counseling and Psychological Services implemented a number of reforms to their mental health services, including adding free 25-minute in-person consultations and increasing the number of full-time counselors on its staff.

Two months after the implementation of these reforms, CAPS reported a decrease from 37 days to 15 days in students’ average wait time of scheduling appointments online. Earlier appointments may be available as soon as the same day by calling Cornell Health.

“We encourage students who are having trouble finding an appointment online to call us,” Chris Payne, director of administrative services at Cornell Health, said in a statement to The Sun.

Cornell Health has also seen increases in both the number of unique clients and the number of student visitors it has had in 2019 by 23% and 34%, respectively, compared to the numbers from 2018. Additionally, the number of students being referred out to community providers was down from 17% to 4% “because we are better able to meet their needs here,” Payne said.

Another reform that CAPS has recently implemented is ProtoCall, a hotline service that connects people to mental health professionals 24/7. The service will be available starting this week, according to Robin Hamlisch, CAPS interim director.

The professionals on call “are experienced in providing support for common concerns experienced by college students, and can also refer students to other Cornell or community resources, when appropriate,” said Hamlish.

Since this summer, Cornell has undertaken a mental health review that aims to conduct “a comprehensive review of student mental health.” The internal team, called the Mental Health Review Committee, focuses on studying the academic and social climate on campus while the External Review Team will examine the “clinical services and campus-based strategies.”

Both teams are currently in the process of conducting “listening tours and focus groups,” according to the website, and a final report about the overall status of student’s mental health at Cornell will be submitted in Spring 2020.

Entities other than CAPS have also been working on developing campus-wide initiatives “that can reduce stress and improve the sense of belonging, well-being, and support for students,” according to Sarah Rubenstein-Gillis, assistant director for clinical services.

These services include Let’s Talk and Let’s Meditate programs, which are available around campus throughout the week.

Cornell Health also hosts a number of support groups and workshops, which typically have more specific areas of focus, including “groups for grad students, international students, and undergraduate women of color,” according to Rubenstein-Gillis.

While the current set of reforms is well underway, CAPS is still looking to improve in the future.

“While these [improvements in statistics] are impressive outcomes this early in a change process, we are still trying to find balance in our counselors’ caseloads as they see more students for shorter periods of time,” said Payne.

This story has been updated to provide more information on the wait time for scheduling appointments.