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 have known for some time that demand for mental health care was outpacing our staffing levels,” said Shauna Landis, CAPS director. “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-crisis, first-time appointments stretched to two to three weeks during the busiest points in the semester, Landis said. The additional staff should cut those wait times.
“We never have a wait for individuals in crisis; we always see folks in those situations on a same-day basis,” Landis said. “But the wait times vary for others, and we know it is frustrating.”
Expanding to Residence Halls and Shadow Lane Campus
When fully staffed, CAPS will add six additional counselors, two psychiatrists, and fill newly created support positions, including an associate director, a wellness educator, and an 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 total 33 employees to serve UNLV's community of about 30,000 students.
A mental health fee that went into place in fall 2021 funds the new staff. A $50 per semester fee ($25 in summer) for all students enrolled in six or more hours of coursework funds all CAPS services. Students who access CAPS services pay no additional charges unless medication, testing, or assessments are necessary, which is discussed with students in advance.
The new staff requires additional space so CAPS will expand into soon-to-be-vacant space in the SSC-A building.
On top of that, in the fall semester, CAPS will embed two counselors in on-campus housing, and by summer 2023, counseling staff will staff a satellite location at the Shadow Lane campus.
The larger physical footprint is part of an effort to expand access to care, but it also allows CAPS to bring on more staff, including eight graduate students, who also provide care.
“We hope the additional space will allow us to take on trainees, who can also provide education and counseling services. CAPS participates in an American Psychological Association (APA) doctoral internship and practicum training program,” Landis noted. “Opening offices in the residence halls allows us to work more closely with Housing and Residential Life staff to provide education and more interaction with students.”
The expanded presence may increase students’ comfort with 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’re so thankful that we now have the funding to keep pace with the increasing student demand for emotional wellbeing services by expanding in-person and online access to these crucial services.”
CAPS has filled four of the newly created positions, but demand for mental health services is growing nationwide, and the job market for such practitioners is strong. “In Las Vegas, there are a lot of positions currently advertised,” Landis said. “That’s made it competitive.”
Landis says UNLV’s benefit package, including a retirement match of up to 15.5% of the employee’s salary and tuition credits, distinguishes CAPS from other career opportunities.
In addition to expanding staff to meet students, needs, Landis says CAPS is developing its innovative care delivery methods, 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, which oversees Student Wellness and CAPS. “The expansion of CAPS is an example of how we’re listening to students and taking action that positively impacts their personal and academic lives.”