Tech's mental health system still broken
Roanoke Times - 4/12/2017
Would Virginia safety nets catch Cho today? The answer is not a definite yes even after ten years of reforms spurred by a tragedy that exemplifies the worst possible consequences of untreated mental illness. As a current graduate student at Virginia Tech, I am disturbed that the Cook Counseling Center, funded by a portion of the health fees students pay each semester, is unable to provide access to treatment for many of those same students.
Earlier this year, I called Cook Counseling Center in February about receiving psychiatric services. After a month's wait for a screening appointment, I was told that there were no available psychiatric intake appointments for the rest of the semester. In response to this, I started trying to ascertain the current state of mental health treatment options at Tech.
While definitively emergent cases like Cho's are more likely to be followed up on, it is still true that students calling for counseling appointments likely will not be seen for several weeks. If further services are needed, students may be told they will receive more timely care if they seek it elsewhere in the community. The student may be handed a list of providers in the community, most of whom are also overwhelmed and whose services are not covered by the health fee the student has paid (unlike the services at Cook). It appears that the resources here are unable to accommodate the sheer number of students asking for help, let alone effectively help those who are not yet ready to ask but are still suffering, as is common when dealing with mental illness.
I was unable to get information on how many students ask about appointments but are discouraged by the wait times or on how many students told to look elsewhere never receive help, but these situations are all too common. This imbalance between need and resources is common throughout Virginia. Ten years later, services have improved, but the fact that they are better than they were does not mean they are good or even adequate.
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