Counseling services on campus may not offer immediate services due to lack of funding

Van Nguyen

The Counseling and Mental Health Center may not be able to offer their services immediately due to a lack of funding. 

According to Terri Bohuslav, executive assistant to the associate vice president for student affairs, CMHC’s budget for the 2016–2017 fiscal year is around $3.7 million from the tuition allocation from the student services committee. But this is still not enough to meet the needs of all students.

During the spring semester of her freshmen year, government sophomore Sarah Herzer was involved in student organizations on campus, did research, interned and took five classes. As the semester went on the stress started to wear her down and she sought assistance from CMHC.

But when Herzer tried to schedule an appointment with CMHC she discovered that the times offered for counseling did not fit her schedule as a busy student.

“I didn’t have time to carve out a time in my schedule that week to do an appointment,” Herzer said. “I didn’t want to go to the crisis line because it wasn’t a crisis. I just wanted to talk to someone about how to deal with stress. I found the [services] completely inaccessible and really frustrating.”

Herzer did not seek further assistance after learning of the wait time. 

The process to schedule an appointment with CMHC starts off with an over the phone or in-person assessment from one of the counselors. The student is able to talk to the counselor right away. If the counselor believes that you are experiencing a crisis, CMHC will see you right away. Otherwise, they will evaluate that student’s needs and point them in the right direction whether that be a counseling session at CMHC or at an outside center. 

The average wait time to schedule an appointment at CMHC to see a counselor is around one week. They also work with other counseling services in Austin to refer students to if CMHC is not meeting their needs. 

“A week is a really long time especially if somebody is in crisis,” said Mayra Sharma, a neuroscience and Plan II junior. “I would ideally like them to see someone immediately afterwards especially because taking that first step to get your appointment is already difficult for some people to do.”

Sharma, a peer educator for CMHC, helps present workshops across campus which will help students deal with the stress of college. She believes funding is one of the issues that colleges face when providing mental healthcare to students. 

“A lot of universities just don’t have [enough] money to put into their counseling and mental health centers,” Sharma said. “Funding would for sure help even if it’s just in general cases.”

The main source of funding for CMHC is tuition allocations, which accounts for close to 90 percent of their budget, according to Bohuslav. The rest comes from charges for counseling and psychiatric sessions, which are $10 and $15 respectively. The costs of services at CMHC are much lower than other counseling and psychiatric services in Austin to keep them accessible to students on campus. 

Chris Brownson, associate vice president for student affairs and director of CMHC, said there is no college counseling center in the nation that has enough funding to meet all the mental health needs of every
student on campus. Brownson said there are a lot of competing priorities on campus that provide important academic and support services to students. 

“We’re prioritizing finding out from a student who is interested in using our services what they need and getting them connected to a resources that will be helpful to them,” Brownson said.