UCS hires first full-time counselor, more hires to come in spring
DePaul University Counseling Services made its first full-time hire of the school year.
Two more full-time counselors will begin work in May 2022, according to UCS director Tow Yau.
UCS plans to have a total of nine full-time board positions by June and will begin seeing students in fall 2022, according to Yau.
These are the first formal full-time hires made by UCS since outsourcing all counseling to My Student Support Program (SSP) in July 2021. Four temporary part-time counselors were hired in January and provided 15 hours of clinical services in Lincoln Park. and five to the loop, according to Yau.
“We have other applicants and hope to fill all remaining positions by June, although hiring in this area continues to be a challenge nationwide,” Yau said in a statement to The DePaulia.
Yau also confirmed that he continues to work with the Student Government Association (SGA) to create a mental health task force.
Riley Reed, SGA Senator for LGBTQ+ Students, said she heard student concerns about My SSP and the services available from the university. The working group is still in its planning phase.
“We as students want to make sure people have access to proper mental health care on college campuses because frankly, as we’ve seen since the pandemic, it’s been poor,” said Reed.
Students may encounter insurance issues if they choose to outsource counseling. During the fall term, UCS would make custom referrals based on insurance plans, according to Yau.
“Students are so frustrated because if you don’t like having certain insurance, it’s really hard to get covered,” Reed said.
DePaul students will have access to My SSP until the end of the academic year, according to Yau, and it is undetermined whether this will be renewed. Yau said students’ use of My SSP wavered throughout the term.
“The number of students accessing My SSP has decreased slightly but remains stable,” he said. “In our experience, the number of students accessing the app fluctuates throughout the term.”
Sophomore Evelyn Hernandez said she was referred to My SSP but was confused as to how it worked.
“It wasn’t clear how to set up an appointment; there wasn’t much explanation about it and it was difficult to navigate the website to figure out how to get an appointment in the first place,” Hernandez noted.
She attended three sessions with two different counsellors.
“I’ve had two sessions with my current counselor, and it’s been fine, but I also feel weird talking to a robot, but it’s been helpful,” Hernandez said.
My SSP says it is a phone, app and web based telehealth service, according to its home page. This term, DePaul students had the opportunity to meet their advisors in person.
“My SSP counselors in Chicago also hosted 30 in-person sessions with DePaul students,” Yau said.
The Division of Student Affairs hosted a Mental Health Fair this past term, where Courtney James, Director of Student Engagement, shared how different departments are trying to help students during UCS’s restructuring.
“We all know what’s going on with UCS,” James said in a previous DePaulia post. “It’s not the only solution. This is part of what students are asking for and what we need to do.
Senior management has not issued a statement regarding UCS. During the fall term, Vice President of Student Affairs Gene Zdziarski sent a college-wide email about My SSP, but didn’t explain why they added the resource. President A. Gabriel Esteban did not address the lack of counselors in his 2021 State of the University presentation.
Provost Salma Ghanem said at the joint university town hall between staff, faculty council and SGA in January that they “will assess the situation as it unfolds”, according to previous reports from The DePaulia. She also said that they have no plans to invest more funds in UCS.
“Once the positions at UCS are filled, the university will assess whether the needs for mental health services have been met,” Ghanem told the meeting.
There have been no updates since then from the administration about UCS.
“The upper administration must be held accountable for the lack of support they gave to their students,” Reed said. “They didn’t address it because they think [My SSP is] working. They need to be held accountable by the students as a whole because it doesn’t work.
UCS was also present at the mental health fair. Yau said it was a way to be more in tune with students’ mental health requirements.
“These events have reinforced how important it is for us to be attuned to the diverse mental health needs of our students,” Yau said. “It will be helpful to listen to students and learn about gaps in support as well as the types of services that would support student success. »
Reed said she trusts Yau to lead UCS and implement new programs for students. This includes hiring various advisors.
“[Yau] said he really wanted a fairer approach to [counseling] and getting therapists who really represent the student body, whether it’s gay therapists or therapists of color, those who can communicate a little better with students,” Reed said.
UCS plans to implement group treatment programs for alcohol and drug use, trauma-informed care, and survivors of sexual violence in the fall of 2022.