Counseling staff is expanding to meet the mental health needs of students

UNLV Student Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is expanding its staff by nearly 65% ​​in the coming months as it responds to increased student demand for mental health services.

“We’ve known for some time that the demand for mental health care is outpacing our staffing levels,” said Shawna Landis, director of CAPS. “There’s less stigma associated with seeking our services, and we’ve also increased our outreach and education, so several factors are driving the need.”

At previous staffing levels, student wait times for non-emergency appointments first stretched to two to three weeks during the busiest points in the semester, Landis said. Additional staff should reduce wait times.

“We should never wait for people in crisis; we always see people in these situations on a day-to-day basis,” Landis said. “But the wait time is different for others and we know it’s frustrating.”

Extension to Shadow Lane Dormitories and Campus

When fully staffed, CAPS will add six additional counselors, two psychiatrists and fill newly created support positions, including an associate director, wellness educator and administrative assistant. In total, CAPS will employ 21 counselors, two psychiatrists, two behavioral health providers, two psychiatric nurses and two wellness educators. Including administrative support, the CAPS team will include a total of 33 employees to serve the UNLV community of approximately 30,000 students.

A mental health levy, which came into effect in autumn 2021, funded the new staff. A fee of $50 per semester ($25 in summer) for all students enrolled in six or more hours of coursework funds all CAPS services. Students accessing CAPS services do not pay additional fees unless medication, tests or assessments are required, which is discussed with students in advance.

The new staff needs additional space, so CAPS will expand into the soon-to-be-vacated space in the SSC-A building.

Additionally, in the fall semester, CAPS will house two counselors in on-campus housing, and by summer 2023, counseling staff will occupy a satellite location on the Shadow Lane campus.

The larger physical footprint is part of an effort to expand access to care, but it also allows CAPS to hire more staff, including eight students who also provide care.

“We hope that the additional space will allow us to take on interns who can also provide educational and consulting services. CAPS participates in the American Psychological Association (APA) doctoral internship and practicum program, Landis noted. “Opening offices in residence halls allows us to work more closely with Housing and Residential Life staff to provide education and more interaction with students.”

Expanded presence may increase student comfort in seeking mental health services.

“Faculty, staff and students have done an excellent job spreading the word about the exceptional care offered at CAPS,” said Jamie Davidson, associate vice president for wellness, who is also a psychologist. “We are so grateful to now have the funding to keep up with the growing student demand for emotional well-being services by expanding in-person and online access to these critically important services.”

CAPS filled four of the newly created positions, but demand for mental health services is growing nationally and the job market for such practitioners is strong. “There are a lot of positions advertised in Las Vegas right now,” Landis said. “That made it competitive.”

Landis says UNLV’s benefits package, including a retirement match of up to 15.5 percent of an employee’s salary and tuition credits, sets CAPS apart from other career options.

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In addition to expanding staff to meet student needs, Landis says CAPS is developing its innovative methods of care delivery, including group counseling, workshops, telehealth counseling sessions and self-help resources.

“We know that many of our students come to UNLV with unique needs,” said B. Keith Rogers, interim vice president for student affairs, who directs Student Wellness and CAPS. “The expansion of CAPS is an example of how we are listening to students and taking actions that positively impact their personal and academic lives.”

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