Nearly every syllabus emphasizes that Georgetown Counseling and Psychiatric Services is at your disposal if you are in need of mental health care. And yet, with student demand for services surpassing CAPS’ ability to provide them, mental health support for Georgetown students is far too often just an illusion.
As the university’s primary mental health care provider for undergraduates, CAPS offers low-cost individual therapy for up to two semesters, after which patients are referred to off-campus resources. The organization also offers short-term group therapy and workshops. While these resources undoubtedly help many Georgetown students, they are insufficient to meet demand.
In fall 2016, CAPS attempted to increase undergraduate access to its services, slashing costs for follow-up visits by at least 80 percent and providing free visits for Georgetown Scholarship Program students. While these efforts lowered financial barriers to mental health care, the organization nevertheless lacks the resources and staff to address the community’s needs. To increase accessibility for on-campus mental health care, Georgetown must dedicate more funding to CAPS services.
Through CAPS’ individual counselling, students can receive personalized support for a cost of just $10 per appointment after the first free visit. However, demand for this individual therapy is high and the program is at capacity; if the number of new users continues to increase, Georgetown may need to implement a waitlist system for the service, according to Phil Meilman, Director of CAPS. Such a waitlist could mean a wait as long as three or four months, and students may not be seen at all. Students that require immediate support would instead be compelled to look off campus.
Costs for off-campus mental health services, however, are considerably higher than the CAPS fee; with health insurance, the average therapy cost is $25 per visit with a one-time $250 deductible. This cost may be prohibitive, especially for low-income students who might need these services.
While Georgetown’s administration finally allocated $10,000 in February 2018 to a GUSA initiative to subsidize off-campus mental health resources for students with demonstrated financial need, the program is limited in scope. Only 10 to 20 students are able to receive assistance.
Off-campus resources are also burdensome for students. With few off-campus therapists that accept Georgetown insurance within walking distance, students must travel long commutes for the care they need. Additionally, many off-campus services only meet during weekday business hours, restricting their ability to consistently fit appointments into tight schedules.
By increasing funding for CAPS, Georgetown would ensure that students who could benefit from the services CAPS offers would not be compelled to look off campus for the resources they need.
Though CAPS offers free group therapy, this service is largely inaccessible for students. With limited staff and resources, group therapy sessions have fixed schedules, meaning that not every student who seeks the service can receive it.
Moreover, the topics of these group sessions are narrow in scope: The seven predetermined topics for the therapy include skills for eating disorder recovery and LGBTQ affirmative therapy — topics that are undoubtedly important to many in the Georgetown community but that may not fit the needs of all students who require the service.
Similarly, group workshops offered by CAPS are not offered regularly enough to provide support for students. These workshops are unable to accommodate inflexible schedules or offer the immediate, personalized support Georgetown students often need.
CAPS is trying its best to ensure students can access the mental health care they need, but it cannot do so without increased funding or staff for on-campus services.
By turning a blind eye to the overburdened resources of CAPS, Georgetown has failed to meet the needs of students who require mental health support. To remedy lack of student access to on-campus mental health care, the university must increase funding for the services it frequently emphasizes.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.