Georgetown Counseling and Psychiatric Services has reduced its fees starting in the fall 2016 semester by 89 percent for follow-up psychology visits and by 80 percent for follow-up psychiatric visits and expanded free services in an effort to increase undergraduate student access to mental health services.
Follow-up psychotherapy visits now cost $10 while follow-up psychiatric visits now cost $15. Students’ first CAPS visits are always free.
Under the previous payment policy at CAPS, follow-up psychotherapy visits would cost students $90 per visit while follow-up psychiatric visits would cost students $75 per visit, with a $10 copay if students had insurance.
Additionally, any student who is in the Georgetown Scholarship Program may receive any CAPS services free of charge as of this fall.
Over the past year, the Georgetown University Student Association and the Mental Health Advisory Board have actively pushed for CAPS services to increase accessibility for those who require their services.
GUSA Mental Health Policy Team Chair Sylvia Levy (SFS ’18) said CAPS’ latest efforts will help make its services more accessible.
“I think this goes a long way to decrease financial barriers to accessing mental health care on campus,” Levy wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This year, GUSA and other student groups will need to work with CAPS to get the word out about these changes.”
Previously, CAPS incorporated private insurance policies into payment calculations and was required to make private arrangements with students unable to afford service fees.
CAPS Director Phil Meilman said he sees the revision of the payment policy as part of a universitywide — as well as nationwide — endeavor to meet the often-neglected mental health needs of undergraduate students.
“[Changing the payment policy] is one step in the process,” Meilman wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“Almost every college counseling center around the nation is challenged to meet the full range of demand for services, and some centers even have three-to-four-month waiting lists. The good news is that it has never been the case at Georgetown.”
CAPS has also hired new staff this semester and is working to add members throughout the year in anticipation of increased demand for mental health services in response to lower fees.
“We hope to add more staff and space next year,” Meilman wrote. “The unknown factor is what effect the new fee schedule will have on staff availability. Irrespective of this, emergencies will continue to be seen on a same-day basis.”
A 2015 study by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University shows the number of mental health service requests on college campuses is growing five times faster than the national rate of university enrollment.
GUSA Deputy Chief of Staff Olivia Hinerfeld (SFS ’17) said the program will help cover the often overlooked indirect financial costs associated with surviving a sexual assault, which can be particularly burdensome when combined with the cost of mental health services.
“The economic costs of violence for survivors of sexual assault can include but are not limited to: medical expenses, tutoring, counseling services, lost tuition if a student has to withdraw, lost scholarships, transit to court hearings, alternate housing, student loan interest, and course drop/change fees,” Hinerfeld wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In April, CAPS implemented a program providing a semester of free counseling for students reporting that they are dealing with a sexual assault as well as alleged perpetrators.
The average cost of violence for a survivor can cost as much as $151,423, according to Hinerfeld.
Aidan Thaggard (MSB ’19) said there has been a shift in the attitude of college students toward seeking mental health services but that there is still room for progress.
“Obviously the most ridiculous thing in the case of providing mental health care on campus would be to prevent people from being able to receive the care just because they can’t afford it,” Thaggard said. “But I don’t know if [changing the payment policy] changes the problem of misinformation about mental health and what mental health issues look like. I think a lot of people still wouldn’t seek initial care regardless of what the cost for follow-ups is just because they don’t think they have mental health problems or aren’t interested in seeking mental health care.”
Levy said the process of expanding access to CAPS on campus will not only entail changing prices and policies, but also ending the stigma related to seeking help for mental health issues.
“In a perfect world, CAPS would not only be inexpensive for students, but it would also have the resources to offer long-term care and would be socially accepted as a normal resource for all students to utilize,” Levy wrote. “The GUSA Mental Health Policy Team will keep working to push for increased resources for CAPS, and student groups like Active Minds will continue to create conversations on campus around mental health and improving our community on the Hilltop.”