After UT President Gregory Fenves announced the subsidizing of counseling fees in January, the Counseling and Mental Health Center immediately saw a spike in demand for their services.
In January and February, a total of 1,733 students reached out to CMHC for their services, compared to only 1,203 students last January and February. This amounts to a 44 percent increase.
Marla Craig, CMHC associate director for clinical services, said counseling appointments have been filling up more quickly after the announcement, which may lead to a longer wait time to see a counselor. To accommodate this increase, CMHC has expanded options for group counseling and workshops in addition to individual counseling, Craig said.
Craig said CMHC currently does not have plans to hire additional counselors because it would require more funds and will not necessarily solve the problem of access to care.
“I don’t know if we would be able to hire our way out of the issue,” Craig said. “If we hire five more counselors, we’re always going to have students who need services … that’s why I still think we need to come up with much more innovative, creative ways to provide service.”
Ashley Deno, an African and African diaspora studies and applied learning and development senior, went for a psychiatric appointment at CMHC this semester after the fees were reduced from $15 per session to $10. Deno said there is a long wait time for psychiatry services, which can be problematic for some students.
“Campus (psychiatry) services are sometimes the only options accessible for students,” Deno said. “(Seeing an outside psychiatrist) can be an intimidating process, as opposed to something set up for students … like at the CMHC.”
Craig said she anticipates the number of students using CMHC services to continue increasing, but because adjustments to the CMHC system can not be implemented in the middle of the academic year, they will reevaluate the issues over the summer. This includes exploring new options such as online counseling and allowing more flexibility in the system, such as more options for a treatment schedule.
“I think our system is very sophisticated in many ways, sometimes a little too sophisticated,” Craig said. “We’ll see our students weekly right now and I think that’s great, but … some students maybe don’t want weekly (appointments).”
Katy Redd, CMHC associate director for prevention and outreach, said the number of students served by CMHC has constantly been increasing over the years, even before the subsidized charges. Shalaka Damle, CMHC peer educator, said one of the reasons for this increase is because there is a greater awareness to seek mental health care among students.
“I have had friends come to me and (tell) me, ‘I have actually utilized the Mind Body Lab,’ (or) ‘I have utilized counseling because I heard more about it from you,’” said Damle, a management informations systems senior. “I’m not saying that I’m that push for them, but I think just having another student talk about it just helps.”