Yale Health Mental Health & Counseling has hired three new clinicians and will pilot electronic appointment scheduling starting this fall, according to a Wednesday email from Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin.
In a collegewide email Wednesday afternoon, Genecin announced these changes, as well as three additional initiatives that he said will address student concerns about access to and quality of mental health services on campus: a feedback process during students’ first appointments, an update to the MH&C website and the launch of a more comprehensive Student Wellness Project.
Though Genecin’s email referenced a net increase in MH&C clinicians since last year, the current roster of clinicians on the MH&C website actually reflects a decrease in the number listed since Feb. 28. That roster showed 28 psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers. The current list shows 27. A comparison of the names listed shows that eight clinicians have been removed from the site since February, while seven have been added. Genecin and MH&C chief psychiatrist Lorraine Siggins did not immediately return Wednesday evening emails asking when the website had last been updated or what the net change in clinicians has been.
Even so, for many on campus, the announcement of three new clinicians signals a triumph after months of at times contentious dialogue last spring. Students active in mental health advocacy said the email demonstrates that the administration is hearing students’ concerns — something that students were less sure If the new hires do constitute a net increase, that would address one of the most significant concerns raised by students about mental health care on campus. Students previously complained that what they saw as a sparse number of clinicians resulted in long wait times for often urgently needed care.
Genecin added in his email that MH&C will continue to actively recruit clinicians. He did not state how many more the center plans to take on.
Eli Feldman ’16, president of Mind Matters and a member of the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said he is optimistic that the new clinicians will help alleviate long wait times.
With 27 clinicians — the number currently listed online — MH&C would have a student-to-clinician ratio of 457 to one. That ratio, though higher than it was in February of this year, is significantly lower than the number at several peer institutions: Harvard University has 754 students for each clinician at its mental health clinic. Cornell University’s Counseling and Psychological Services has 793 students for every counselor.
On the other hand, the student-to-clinician ratio at Princeton, where there are 359 students for every provider, is lower than that at Yale.
Though Feldman said hiring more than three new clinicians would have been ideal, he said the quality of the hires is ultimately more important than the number.
fall, according to Genecin’s email. Students will be able to use their computers or cell phones to securely schedule appointments with their clinicians. While only a limited number of clinicians will take part in the service at first, it will hopefully expand department-wide by the end of the year, Genecin wrote. Students will still be able to schedule appointments via phone call.
Jaclyn Schess ’18 said that online scheduling is a welcome change, as mental health concerns can be exacerbated by difficulties reaching a clinician.
“Anything Yale Health can do to make us better access clinicians is better,” she said.
Students interviewed expressed optimism about all the new initiatives, but they highlighted online scheduling and increased clinicians as the most exciting news in Genecin’s email.
All students seeking care at MH&C will now speak with a staff member during their first meeting to discuss their concerns, treatment preferences and goals before deciding how to move forward and in what format. The change is designed to alleviate students’ previous concerns that if their initial clinicians were not right for them, requesting a different clinician would further delay their next appointment.
Yale College Council Vice President Maddie Bauer ’17, who also sits on Yale Health’s Mental Health & Counseling Advisory Committee — a group of four undergraduates that meets regularly with Genecin — said the conversations will allow students to be more vocal about whether or not their clinicians are right for them. Still, Genecin noted that many students will retain the clinician they meet during their intake appointment.
The MH&C website was upgraded as well to introduce more clarity into its Frequently Asked Questions and make it easier to navigate.
Finally, the office of University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews will introduce a Student Wellness Project that will focus more holistically on wellness, rather than just mental health treatment.
Bauer said she is confident that MH&C will implement a feedback system in the coming weeks to evaluate the effectiveness of the changes. As a member of the Mental Health Advisory Committee, she said, she has seen how seriously the administration takes student input on this issue.
All students interviewed emphasized their pleasure that the administration has responded in a tangible manner to the concerns raised last spring.
“I am hoping that this will be framed as a positive and will be used as evidence of the fact that Yale does support its students and that people are listening to our concerns,” Schess said. “It worries me that there is a conversation on campus that only looks at the negatives. I think that, especially in mental health, [it’s important to talk] about the positives on campus.”