Over the summer, Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) introduced two new policies to increase accessibility. The policies work to lower the cost and increase the anonymity of treatment and to expand treatment to students in the Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP).
CAPS has reduced the cost of their services dramatically. Evaluations and consultations are free of charge, and follow up visits are $15 for psychiatry and $10 for psychotherapy, which is equivalent to a standard copay. This represents a dramatic reduction from their previous charges of $90 for psychotherapy and $75 for psychiatry, with $10 copay for insured students.
This new policy no longer goes through student insurance, also increasing the privacy of those who use CAPS services.
Additionally, a donation from an alumnus has allowed students in GSP to access CAPS services free of charge and provided them with an in-house clinician three days per week.
“These changes will make help more accessible, especially for those who may be reticent, as it puts assistance within easy reach,” wrote Dr. Philip Meilman, director of CAPS, in an email to the Voice.
Missy Foy, head of the GSP Program, agreed, saying, “Any concern that students had about that showing up on their parent’s health insurance bill or popping up somewhere in the mail is now completely eliminated, and I think that is amazing.”
Foy and Phillip both stated that there are specific challenges facing the GSP community—a community that is largely first-generation college students, students of color, and socioeconomically diverse.
“Our students work really really hard for everything and they juggle a lot of responsibilities,” said Foy. “Some of our students feel like the opportunities for their own future and their family’s future completely ride on this college experience.”
Phillip cited the stress resulting from being first generation college students and coming from under-resourced backgrounds as “factors [which] may lead to adjustment issues and mixed experiences with a felt sense of connectedness to the University” and potential problems with mental health among GSP students.
Foy also acknowledged the barriers to getting help with mental health in the GSP community, such as lack of time and stigma surrounding appearing weak in home communities.
Sylvia Levy (SFS ‘18), chair of the GUSA Mental Health Policy Team, said that the visibility afforded by the presence of an in-house clinician at GSP would be instrumental in increasing the level of comfort students feel when they consider reaching out for help.
Levy was excited about other changes. “In the past, a lot of students looked at CAPS and said ‘I couldn’t afford that and I don’t want to ask my parents,” Levy said. She said the new policies have made CAPS more accessible financially, removing that stress.
Despite the progress and changes that have been made to CAPS policy, individuals on campus involved with mental health acknowledge that there is still a long way to go, and that funding and space remain limiting factors.
When asked about next steps for CAPS, Dr. Meilman wrote, “We are looking to grow the size of the staff to more closely match the full extent of the need for mental health and counseling support on campus. In order to do this, we will also need more space, as we are limited with our present footprint.”
Additionally, Levy worried that the new payment policy could lead to increased demand for CAPS . “That’s difficult because they don’t have enough staff to be able to provide long-term care to students. They have to limit the amount of visits each individual student has,” said Levy.
Levy also acknowledged the importance of coupling the payment policy with “a response by students to create a more mentally healthy culture here.” She cited student calls for training programs for faculty regarding student mental health and the work of organizations like GUSA’s Mental Health Advisory Board and Active Minds. An open forum was hosted on Oct. 17, during which students had the opportunity to ask administration questions and propose solutions to mental health problems on campus.