The Counseling and Psychological Services faculty counselors and staff unanimously oppose moving forward with Recommendation #118 because it fails to recognize or respond to critical, unmet student needs for CAPS services.
Assessment and utilization data, provided to the committee, demonstrated CAPS quality, efficiency, and centrality to the University’s mission, and made a compelling case for increased general fund investment. One or more times in the past academic year, 65% of Cal Poly students felt sad, 54% felt hopeless, and 38% felt so depressed they could not function (NCHA 2007). Service demands already outpace CAPS capacity year-round, and demand for crisis intervention and consultation regarding distressed students increased 400% during the first 7 weeks of Fall 2007, over Fall 2006. Psychological and emotional barriers interfere with students’ readiness/capacity for learning, threaten retention, and impede academic progress. Over 90% of students utilizing CAPS say they would return if they needed help in the future and would recommend CAPS to a friend, where they learned “confidence, new ways to live, better ways to cope, and how to focus, study, absorb information, prioritize tasks and manage time more effectively.”
The current recommendation does nothing to address critical, unmet student needs, leaving the University, its instructional faculty, and its staff at high risk from students who are severely emotionally distressed and/or mentally disturbed. Efforts put into “creating a business plan to fund the integration of CAPS into an expanded Student Health Services model” by “an expansion of the student health fee” are sure to be wasted because this funding strategy is not feasible.
Cal Poly’s current mandatory health fee, which has not increased since 1998, no longer supports the basic medical services provided by SHS, and a fee increase is already being planned to address this.
Students are not likely to approve a significant fee increase, for health or any other services, given the current campus and political climate (see College Affordability Act of 2008).
While many direct clinical and some complementary services CAPS provides in support of the campus community can be termed health care, CSU Policy on University Health Services (Executive Order 943) does not speak to the provision of or funding for mental health or psychiatric care, disability assessment and diagnosis, or psychological outreach and education.
EO943 states that campuses may assess students a mandatory student health services fee to provide basic medical services, and that all proceeds of such fees must be used to support Student Health Center operations.
EO943 also lists certain health services that are specialized in nature which may be offered as “augmented services” under the condition they not divert resources or staff from the adequate provision of basic health services; however, none of the above mentioned mental health services are listed.
CAPS does support further collaboration and communication with both SHS and the DRC as part of a multidisciplinary team approach to diagnostic assessment and student care. These efforts, and thereby service to students, could be enhanced by providing for integrated space designed to house these departments in a single location. Such a plan would facilitate consultation, continuity of care, and may even eliminate some redundancies, but would not reduce costs. Quite the opposite, additional allocation would be required to fund space acquisition, design, build-out, and relocation, as well as adequate CAPS staffing to provide testing services for documenting psychiatric and learning disabilities.