All Campus Email: CAPS Update

On September 4, CAPS Director Jennifer D’Andrea sent an all-campus email alerting students of some alarming changes in CAPS staffing. Over the summer, there were “three unexpected departures from the CAPS team,” including Katie Scheinberg, the APRN that was hired in February 2017 as a direct result of the student-organized Wes Needs CAPS campaign of 2016-17, which had four major demands: 

  1. Hire two new, full-time psychologists.
  2. Raise our half-time therapist up to full-time.
  3. Approve the hiring of a full-time Advanced Practicing Nurse Practitioner (APRN).
  4. Increase the CAPS operating budget for the first time in six years.

The other two departures from CAPS this fall were Lisa Miceli, Ph.D. and Amber Jones, LCSW. These staffing changes leave Wesleyan with only 6 licensed psychotherapists (most of whom are part-time or have significant duties other than providing counseling services to students) and 6 externs. This is the smallest provider pool CAPS has offered since I began at Wesleyan in Fall 2015. At the same time, CAPS is now severely understaffed for the task of providing counseling and psychological services to Wesleyan’s ~3,240 undergraduate and graduate students (including the largest incoming class of students at Wesleyan in the past two years).

Further context for the CAPS staffing situation and the full text of the email can be found below the jump:

Our colleagues at the Argus reported on this staffing change, including student responses to the changes. It is also important to note the institutional history of the under-staffing and “unexpected departures” of staff from Wesleyan CAPS.

When former part-time APRN Katina Varzos left Wesleyan “to pursue another full-time employment opportunity” in September 2016, CAPS was unable to provide Wesleyan students with prescription services. This left many students without the ability to continue their prescribed treatment, as many insurers do not cover the full cost of off-campus psychological services, and because the community providers in Middletown were overwhelmed by the sudden influx of patients from Wesleyan (and often unable to take on new patients).

Around the same time, the Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator/Therapist Alysha Warren unexpectedly left CAPS for a position at Williams College in September 2016. Warren’s role was discontinued, and the new Office of Survivor Advocacy and Community Education was only created in February 2017, which is when Johanna DeBari was hired as director. There was a full semester where Wesleyan had an employment gap in designated support for survivors of sexual assault.

These two departures were difficult for Wesleyan students, particularly survivors of sexual assault, who were facing significant trauma surrounding the news of former dean Scott Backer‘s history of sexual abuse and the subsequent administrative cover-up and minimization of the situation which also broke in Fall 2016 and dominated campus discourse for most of that academic year.

Clearly, Wesleyan has a demonstrated record (especiallyover the past several years) of being unable to keep beloved and necessary providers at CAPS. This begs the question: What could Wesleyan be doing to encourage these workers to stay? Perhaps increasing funding to CAPS in order to offer more full-time positions would encourage more providers to remain at their job rather than feeling stuck with a part-time job and the need for other employment. (This is supported by an all-campus email D’Andrea sent out after several months of having no APRN at Wesleyan: “Since our last provider stepped down we have conducted two searches which have failed to result in a new hire in this role. With support from Dean Mike and President Roth, we have upgraded the position to full time and are confident that we can successfully complete the search in the coming weeks.”)

Perhaps therapists feel that their patient-loads are too large, and they leave to pursue work at institutions or practices where there is more staff available to handle large patient-loads. Perhaps there are other work conditions or salaries which could be improved to keep our CAPS providers satisfied and at Wesleyan. Considering these “unexpected departures” have become a chronic issue at Wesleyan, it is the administration’s duty to address the causes of these departures and aim to address them.

Here is the full text of the most recent campus update on CAPS staffing from CAPS Director Jennifer D’Andrea:

Dear Students —

I am writing to update you about some staff changes in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). In recent weeks we’ve had three unexpected departures from the CAPS team. We’ve worked hard to quickly fill these openings so that we have new staff in place to support you as the school year begins. We have already hired a new psychotherapist, and expect to hire another full-time therapist in the next few weeks. Additionally, we are working to identify a new APRN to work with students in need of psychotropic medication (meanwhile, we’ve made temporary arrangements for support until the search is concluded).

I hope to have more information to share soon. Please know that we will work with you through the transition if a therapist you worked with last year has left Wesleyan. Be sure to contact our office as soon as possible to make arrangements so that we can continue to meet your needs.

We have updated our staff list and will continue to do so as we fill the remaining vacancies.

Through these transitions, we remain committed to meeting with students in crisis within 24 hours and seeing students for more routine therapy within two weeks. We look forward to working with you this year!

Jennifer D’Andrea, Ph.D.
Director of CAPS

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