CAPS aims to improve counselor-to-student ratio, expand metal health care

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 1:08am

Counseling and Psychological Services Director Todd Sevig addresses the Central Student Government during their meeting in the Union on Tuesday.

Counseling and Psychological Services Director Todd Sevig addresses the Central Student Government during their meeting in the Union on Tuesday. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

Tuesday night, Todd Sevig, director of University of Michigan Counseling and Psychological Services, gave Central Student Government an oversight of the organization’s current plans to expand mental health services unique to the differing majors on campus.

“It’s crucial that I … as director of CAPS — we, as CAPS — are here, engaging, listening, answering questions,” he said. “In the last approximately 15 years, we’ve almost doubled in size. We are starting a national search for new positions. We have been newly funded, if you will, for six new positions in CAPS.”

Sevig emphasized the importance of faculty and students working together, and how CAPS is currently expanding and adopting new positions this year.

“When I think of how change happens in the University, I’m 99 percent convinced that sustainable change, lasting change, happens in student, faculty, staff (and) administrators all working together,” Sevig said. “We are your counseling center. We do not exist for me; we do not exist for the staff … We are not a private counseling center; we are a student counselling center. Whatever we do needs to be grounded in what you all think is helpful, actually works, actually helps you, and not really what we think.”

Sevig also described a new program being implemented at the University, modeled after similar programs at other campuses. The program involves assigning a model to each school of the University, in order to understand the unique situations in each field or major.

“Northwestern and the University of Iowa were experimenting, piloting having one of their staff members devoting part of their time to one school or college,” Sevig said. “The staff member was physically in that college, and would provide services to only those students and would be able to consult with faculty and staff. I took that idea, transferred it to us, and people liked it.”

Sevig said CAPS started with this process on North Campus with full-time counselors in the College of Engineering, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the School of Art & Design. It also implemented a step that involved four more specialized counselors in the School of Dentistry, the Ross School of Business, the Law School and Rackham Graduate School. Sevig and his team met with the deans of every school and highlighted the differences in experiences and sources of anxiety for students in different schools, such as the College of Engineering and Music, Theatre & Dance School.

There are currently plans in progress to expand the embedded model and add more counselors to the program, as well as increase the number of positions in Central Campus CAPS.

School of Art and Design Representative Abigail Zrike said that though she liked the embedded model and that she’s definitely seen it’s effect on campus, she thinks that additional funding could also go towards other measures, such as making it more convenient to schedule an appointment at CAPS.

“I’m definitely excited that there’s been more funding for hiring more counsellors, but I think it’s important to think about how there are definitely a lot of other improvements that can be made.” said Zrike. “I personally wasn’t able to use CAPS because of the wait and also my school being on North Campus, and I strongly approve of the embedded model, as somebody who has benefitted from knowing it’s there. That has helped me, so I’m definitely excited to hear that that’s something funding can be put towards.”

With the new positions, Sevig estimates the new ratio of counselors to students will be about 1-to-1,200, which he stresses is lower than all Big Ten schools except for Northwestern University, with its unusually low ratio of 1-to-800.

Sevig said CAPS’s goal is to reach 1-to-1,000, as to help foster the University’s mental health facilities in comparison to others colleges. 

CSG had its own mental health initiatives this semester — the body hosted two townhalls on Central and North campus to discuss the results of their survey from Fall.

The survey results found that 91.3 percent of the 1000 students who voluntarily responded to the survey have dealt with a mental health concern on campus. Task force co-chair Yumi Taguchi, an LSA senior, explained how the townhalls were important in furthering the discussion this issue.

“Both the surveys and the town hall are so important for this discussion,” Taguchi said in January. “We hear a lot of different stories about resources and the climate on campus, but this format lets us record it in a quantitative way in order for us to present it to administration, to actually make a difference.”

LSA junior Max Rothman, another member of the mental health task force, explained North campus struggled with isolation from Central campus resources during the second townhall.

“Students on North Campus feel that they don’t have equal access to utilizing mental health resources on campus,” Rothman said. “Of the students who currently live here on North Campus and who have utilized some sort of resource here on campus, 50 percent answered yes about whether the physical distance here on campus has deterred them from utilizing CAPS.”