New CAPS positions to respond to swell in caseload

Amy Hamblin

The addition of a case manager to Counseling and Psychological Services in the fall will help relieve overextended counselors facing an increase in the volume of students walking through their doors, CAPS Director Kathy Hollingsworth said.

Northwestern’s proposed 2004-05 budget allotted money for one new case manager for the Evanston Campus and a CAPS secretary for the Chicago Campus. The search for a case manager has not yet begun but the position, along with the secretary, will be filled in the fall, Hollingsworth said.

“It will be an incredible source of assistance for (the counselors),” she said. “We have had (more than) a 50 percent increase in emergencies over the past five years.”

Hollingsworth said although she has not clearly defined what the duties of the new case manager position will entail, the new employee most likely will deal with the large amounts of insurance paperwork and referrals to other services.

The secretary will alleviate some of the Chicago counselors’ workload, even though the position will be shared with the Office for Student Affairs. Because CAPS on the Chicago Campus currently does not have a secretary, the counselors have had to do clerical work, distracting them from their interaction with students.

Hollingsworth said administrators are recognizing the necessity of CAPS and have been doing a good job of increasing the facilities’ resources. Aside from the two new positions, CAPS has received funding in the past few years for two staff members, along with bumping up one part-time employee to a full-time position.

“CAPS has really been a recipient of a lot of attention from the central administration in the past few years,” Hollingsworth said. “That’s an amazing amount of support during a time period when the university has been financially limited.”

Hollingsworth said Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis encouraged CAPS to submit a budget request to him for more staff. Banis said increasing CAPS’ staff would “strengthen the safety net on campus.”

“My long-term strategy is to move us more into prevention and proactive work,” he said.

Each year, CAPS provides both individual and group therapy free of charge for about 2,000 students. Hollingsworth said during the past few years there has been an influx in the number of new assessments, involving cases where students aren’t coming in consistently. If a student comes back after one visit several months later, it is considered a new assessment. CAPS makes approximately 1,700 new assessments annually.

“Our wait list says to me that demand is exceeding supply,” said Diane Lin, a CAPS counselor. “Case management hours have increased phenomenally. That takes away time from counseling.”

Although she said she does not mind doing some case management, currently the counselors are responsible for doing all of it. A case manager, who would assist the nine senior CAPS psychologists and three psychiatrists, is a logical step to make in order to keep pace with the growing counseling needs of students, Lin said.

Hollingsworth said the reason is obvious for the increase in students seeking help: the stressful academic climate at NU.

“We have a very intensely gifted student population,” she said. “They are under a lot of pressure. When it gets to be too much, they need help.”

Education sophomore Jessica Joslin said the services are invaluable.

“A good hunk of students use this and so few know about it,” said Joslin, who visited CAPS at the end of last year. “Everyone at Northwestern was at the top of their class in high school and to think you can do that here is a very humbling experience.”