2016 wasn’t the brightest of years when it came to mental health services.
It’s no secret that UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services has had a difficult 12 months, struggling to balance funding and staff shortages with ever-increasing student demand for counseling services.
Luckily, good times seem to be ahead for CAPS, with additional revenue on the way from the #UCLAWellness referendum passed last spring and a 1.5 percent increase in the University’s Student Service Fee. On top of that, CAPS has decided to create a student advisory board to solicit student feedback on its services.
Given these new developments, it is imperative CAPS utilizes its new student advisory board to determine how best to use its growing budget to most effectively serve students and also solidify its relationships with other campus student counseling services.
The implementation of the student advisory board is definitely a good step forward. According to Nicole Green, executive director of CAPS, the student advisory board will meet once or twice a month to give input on budgeting and how CAPS can improve its services.
CAPS will begin discussing how to use its new revenue in winter 2017, and the advisory board needs to be given the ability to provide direct input on how revenue is allocated to the various services. Since students are CAPS’ primary beneficiaries, it only seems appropriate that they be given the ability to comment directly on the finer details of how services are budgeted.
More importantly, CAPS needs to use its student advisory board to better collaborate with other campus counseling services and address its own shortcomings. It was only in fall 2015 when it instituted a policy limiting students’ regular appointments to at most six sessions per quarter. And while the policy was later discontinued, it spurred the undergraduate population to look into alternative counseling services, such as the USAC Student Wellness Commission’s peer counseling service, which it created in collaboration with Student Affairs and by training student counselors through CAPS.
Although UCLA spokesperson Rebecca Kendall noted that CAPS already collaborates with many student mental health efforts, it needs to solidify its relationship with these other counseling services in the new year. The student advisory board can help bridge the gaps between the various counseling services on campus and formalize a network of resources for students that complement each other, not step on each other’s toes.
Traditional counseling services are definitely preferable to more ad hoc resources, but CAPS is knowledgeable of its own limitations. The only way for it to effectively address the pitfalls in its services – in spite of its incoming revenue – is for its student advisory board to establish a clear procedure for how students can utilize the various campus resources in tandem.
CAPS’ additional revenue and implementation of the student advisory board offer hope to a historically ailing campus program. If the board can provide substantial input on budget decisions and help expand its network of programs, it stands to make CAPS’ – and students’ – 2017 just a little brighter.