Last year, UCLA broke ground on building an expansive sports center – a behemoth the likes of which the campus had never seen before. To date, however, the less flashy Counseling and Psychological Services center has struggled to find any additional new space.
Counseling and Psychological Services is the primary mental health center at UCLA and one of the only places on campus where students can seek help such as crisis counseling or individual and group therapy. Yet, for several years, CAPS has not been able to sufficiently serve students’ needs – even if it has had every intention to meet them – due to a variety of concerns, many of which originate from a lack of space.
In the face of these concerns, which student enrollment increases will only exacerbate, the UCLA administration needs to take a more prominent role in helping CAPS find additional space to meet students’ needs. And this starts with discussing potential space collaborations with various other campus departments, such as Housing and Athletics.
It’s been clear for some time now that CAPS does not have the ability to accommodate everyone who needs its services. Last quarter, CAPS saw an average of 534 different students each week – not to mention those who are deferred to other providers. The number of students seen each week increases about four percent quarterly, but fall 2016 saw an unusual increase of 17 percent. This could very well be an isolated incident, but it is also indicative of a change in demand that will only increase with enrollment.
Certainly, space and funding are not easy to come by, but UCLA is no stranger to making more use of what it already has. For instance, the recently opened Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center replaced a central parking structure. And just last year, UCLA displaced the graduate student gym and archival services to accommodate a new high school. On the other hand, CAPS was forced to halve the size of its offices in 2014 to increase its staff and available appointments. Donors like the Luskins and David Geffen specifically earmark their money for these uses, but that doesn’t mean UCLA should allow them to determine the campus’ future landscape.
Recently, CAPS applied for funding with the university to help create a satellite center to alleviate demand. But university spokesperson Rebecca Kendall said the search for an on-campus location has not yet been fruitful. What is troublesome is not the difficulty in finding space, but that the administration has taken a backseat in helping CAPS address its predicament.
Kendall said campus leadership was having ongoing discussion with CAPS, but when pressed for what exactly this leadership was discussing, she could not provide any further information – sending a worrisome signal that the administration is not taking an active or consistent role in helping CAPS.
This needs to change. Empty official statements attesting commitment to students’ mental health needs will not help solve CAPS’ impending space concerns. The administration needs to take the initiative and work with campus departments and CAPS to find additional space for the new clinic. For example, the administration can reach an agreement with the Hill and provide CAPS space that is directly accessible to students. If organizations such as the Undergraduate Writing Center can manage to make their services available on the Hill, the administration should not have trouble helping CAPS do the same.
For too long, the university has allowed its mental health services to flounder. CAPS and the student body have made numerous efforts to improve mental health resources on campus. The administration needs to meet them halfway there.