Columbia Health will be instituting a new two-path model for its counseling drop-in system: one option for short-term “problem solving” and another one for more urgent mental health concerns.
Among other concerns, students have historically expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of more immediate access to mental health care due to long wait times that can occur when trying to schedule an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services. Following a striking increase in student suicides during the 2016-17 school year, students, including student leaders, have repeatedly pressured the University to make concrete steps towards improving mental health resources and access to care on campus.
Previously, drop-in hours aimed to provide students with urgent mental health needs immediate access to a mental health professional, as well as to lower the barrier of access for students who did not want to undergo the multi-step triage process for scheduling an appointment. According to data provided by CPS, the 2018-2019 school year saw 1,500 drop-in visits, an increase of 41% from the previous year.
This semester, overall drop-in hours will increase from 50 hours to 75 hours.
Problem-Solving drop-ins aim to help students who are struggling with a specific incident or short-term problem causing distress, the locations for which will be listed on the Columbia Health website.
On the other hand, Urgent Mental Health Concerns drop-ins are geared toward students seeking immediate help. These will be located at the CPS office on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall and will be available Monday to Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“We recognize that there are students who are not interested and don’t need a whole traditional counseling set up and were looking for a quick way just to have a conversation with a mental health professional,” Richard Eichler, executive director of CPS, said regarding the addition of Problem-Solving drop-ins.
“Recognizing that that was driving some students into those hours we said, ‘Ok, well let’s set up specific times and places for those students.”
Other changes in mental health services include the Behavioral Health Initiative launched in February 2018, which places a CPS psychologist in Medical Services to allow primary care providers to more readily consult with psychologists during appointments. Many of the recent developments have come as part of the University’s ongoing partnership with the Jed Foundation, started in 2017 to enhance Columbia’s mental health policies and resources.