Good evening. My name is Dennis Emano. I am one of 2 mental health counselors at COD, and I have been with the college for 17 years. I am also a licensed clinical psychologist.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Counselors have planned a series of events to raise awareness. But here’s the problem, we are at capacity for the remainder of the term. As much as we want to see students requesting to meet with us, we don’t have enough openings. This is partly due to the fact that in the past few years we have lost 8 part-time counselors and advisors and 3 full-time counselors, whose positions have not been replaced. In my estimation, that’s 250 hours a week of lost student contact time. The ironic part is that we are promoting our counseling services during a time when we are already at capacity and need to refer students out. To make matters worse, the administration is eliminating part-time counselors.
The college conducted a mental health survey last year, and the biggest take away is that students want more mental health services. However, we lack the staff to meet their needs.
The survey also shows that 15% of respondents report experiencing suicidal thoughts, 55% report depression, and 80% report anxiety–among other mental health issues.
After you weaken counseling services by eliminating the part-time counselors, guess who will be left to deal with these students when the few remaining counselors are at capacity? Faculty, the deans, the staff. How is that ethical? Telehealth cannot replace the counselor on campus helping faculty with their distressed student. So please don’t ask them to take a number because there aren’t enough counselors available.
The Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act mandates that colleges, like COD, raise mental health awareness on campus. One of the purposes of this law is to increase access to support services and clinical mental health services on campus. However, I ask this, How do you increase access to mental health services when you plan to eliminate all the part-time counselors? To me, this is a direct violation of the law. It is a disaster waiting to happen. Furthermore, it is unethical–going against one of the most important values declared by this college that states, “We expect the highest standard of moral character and ethical behavior.”
I believe there is another solution to the problem of counseling access and availability, but eliminating part-time counselors is certainly not one of them. So I urge to please listen to the voices you’re hearing tonight about the importance of counseling for our students.