Counseling Center representatives unveiled a revamped consultation systemaimed at improving student wait times to the Faculty Senate Aug. 28, and are looking to offer formal counseling services at the Round Rock Campus in the future.
The Counseling Center’s new appointment system consists of a concise three-level categorization hierarchy intended to determine the severity of each student’s case, according the center’s website. Level one denotes emergency consultations and is intended for life-threatening situations such as thoughts of suicide or self-inflicted pain. Level two is an urgent consultation reserved for dealing with cases of traumatic nature, and level three, or initial consultations, is for non-immediate cases such as stress or anxiety.
Gregory Snodgrass, recently retired director of the Counseling Center, said many factors played a part in the decision to redesign the appointment system. He said there were concerns the scope of the initial consultations were too narrow, and counselors might accidentally overlook someone who needs help.
“(The new system is) a formal triage system that will help better recognize more serious issues,” Snodgrass said.
Additionally, the recent increase in student population has created a need for categorizing initial consultations, Snodgrass said. Before, initial consultations required students to tell their stories at the beginning of the process and again during an assigned counseling appointment. Snodgrass said the new tiered system will streamline the counseling process and help students more quickly.
Snodgrass said a preliminary screening of the system conducted over the summer proved its integrity through increased numbers of consultations and decreased delays.
“(The new system) has already and will continue to increase access to allow a quicker response and give appropriate attention to those with more urgent needs,” Snodgrass said.
Barbara Covington, faculty senator and associate professor at St. David’s School of Nursing at the Round Rock campus, said there is a neglect in counseling services at the institution. She said the nursing programs entail high-intensity work for students, and the lack of formal counseling services raises concern about mental health.
“I am not hearing this as a priority,” Covington said. “(The Round Rock Campus) is expanding, and I feel as if we are being treated as second-class citizens.”
Snodgrass said in the Round Rock Campus’ earlier days, the Division of Student Affairs worked with representatives at the adjoining campus to determine what services were needed. The projected population was used to determine the necessary services such as counseling and health programs. The population could not be adequately estimated at the time, and thus no further action was taken. Now, the issue of creating adequate student services in Round Rock is a matter of resource allocation, Snodgrass said.
“Most of the students there (at the time) were adults and graduate students who more than likely had outside services of their own,” Snodgrass said. “We decided not to put services up there that weren’t going to be used, seeing as we were having enough trouble with staffing here.”
A practicum clinic at the Round Rock Campus was opened to act as a “one-stop shop” for all student service needs because of the ever-increasing population, Snodgrass said. However, the practicum clinic has since proven to be ineffective, which helped inspire the current push to install formal counseling services there, he said.
“The results of the practicum clinic were dismal,” Covington said. “If this issue is not addressed, I’m really concerned that one of our students is going to end up dead.”
Snodgrass said the lack of counseling resources at the Round Rock Campus is being treated as a priority, and he would be more than happy to see an increase in student services there. This task would be relatively easy given the appropriate staffing and resources, he said.
“We need to address this,” said Joanne Smith, vice president for Student Affairs. “This is my first time hearing about it, but we will work towards a solution.”