By Sumaiya Nasir | November 22, 2021
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is now offering 24/7 mental health assistance outside of its usual business hours in response to an uptick in demand for mental health services.
Several students have confirmed with the ASP that when attempting to reach out to CAPS, they have been placed on hold for extended periods of time and have had to wait weeks for an appointment.
Many students are seeking out mental health assistance, a recent trend over the last two years, according to Dr. Karen Sokolowski, director of Counseling and Psychological Services. As of the fall 2021 semester, CAPS has seen 946 students, compared to 896 during the fall 2020 semester, and currently has an additional 803 appointments scheduled through the end of December. Sokolowski attributes this accelerated trend to the events of the past two years.
CAPS will be offering 24/7 phone access to mental health professionals outside of CAPS’ business hours in partnership with a new service that will provide support and offer suggestions to students, as well as necessary resources and emergency services. Students will be connected to this service when calling the CAPS number after hours.
“We requested to add this service in response to input from students who expressed concerns last year about having difficulty accessing support in the evenings or on weekends,” said Dr. Sokolowski.
CAPS is also currently short-staffed, with only one full-time psychiatrist booked until the end of the semester. To cater to as many students' needs as possible, CAPS has partnered with SUNY Tele-Counseling Network through the SUNY Upstate Medical University, “which offers brief telepsychiatry to students on several SUNY campuses,” said Dr. Sokolowski. “We are also hoping to be able to increase our psychiatry services at CAPS with an additional provider, and this is something that is in process.”
For non-urgent cases, CAPS provides a multitude of services. CAPS offers a virtual Let’s Talk service Tuesday through Thursday during select hours. Students are able to receive a brief consultation from a mental health clinician on a first-come-first-serve basis. Students also have access to the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program Hotline, staffed by trained undergraduate students who offer support and can be contacted at (518) 442-5777. Middle Earth also provides sessions with Peer Wellness Coaches who offer tips on improving wellbeing and balance. CAPS also lists many self-help options on their website, including self-care tips, mindfulness apps, and anxiety and stress management resources.
Dr. Sokolowski encourages students experiencing an urgent mental health crisis to call CAPS at (518) 442-5800, regardless if they have an appointment during business hours.