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Mental health counseling is in crisis on CSU campuses
Martha Cuan, Counselor, CSU Stanislaus

Comments to the CSU Board of Trustees, November 8, 2017

Good morning.

I was made in the CSU. I completed my undergraduate degree in 1997, and my Master’s in 2001 both at CSU Stanislaus. Then on January 2, 2014, I was hired as a temporary counseling faculty member on the very same campus that made me.

Today I come before you to speak on behalf of the CFA’s counselors committee. I am here to provide you with important information about the number of students seeking mental health services, the lack of compliance with recommended counselor /student ratios and the CSU’s perilous plan to eliminate permanent counseling positions.

CSU counseling centers are seeing significant increases in the number of students that meet crisis criteria meaning they are experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, significant life disruptions such as a death or a sexual assault. These presenting in crisis receive priority services. Prioritizing students in crisis impacts other students seeking treatment for more routine but disruptive problems such as anxiety and/or depression. At this moment hundreds of students are in waiting and hoping to receive services in our system.

Students as a rule do not access services until symptoms are very severe. This fall students in the CSU, they have been accessing counseling services in unprecedented numbers due to DACA, the list having DACA status, seeing shootings and the wildfires. Counselors have been doubling the students they see a day.

This is a very serious problem on all CSU campuses. Therefore it’s surreal in this high demand for services and the increase in severity of student mental health issues that the CSU doesn’t want to hire and retain experienced permanent mental health counselors. A recent analysis shows that permanent counseling positions have been reduced by 50% in the last ten years. As of today there are seven campuses with no permanent experienced mental health providers.

Another severe problem for the CSU is the high turnover rate among temporary counselors. There are several reasons why counselors are leaving the CSU. Some of the most cited being low pay, excessive work loads and concerns about personal liability. There are two campuses where the most recent senior counselors have been there only two years. Then at CSU Sacramento three temporary counselors were not rehired because they were making inquiries about the promise permanency of their contracts.

We the CFA Counselors Committee pose the question how do these current CSU practices benefit our campuses? But most importantly how do they benefit our students? All of you I have been told have been provided with a copy of the California Faculty magazine which documents the lack of compliance with internal accreditation staffing standards.

There is evidence in the form of external reviews commissioned by CSU administrators that repeatedly articulate CSU psychological centers are over booked and under staffed at dangerous levels. Also in that same magazine you will find a link to a timeline, a striking visual that speaks to the longevity of these concerns.

We the CFA Counselors Committee implore the trustees to read our report. We ask for an audit of all external reviews conducting on CSU counseling centers and the recommendations offered by the experts and accredited agencies be followed.

 

Thank you.

Commands