Counseling Center Expands Services, Hours

Published on October 16, 2020

Sometimes a personal crisis doesn’t happen during business hours, especially on a college campus where young people live, work and study 24 hours per day. That’s why Dr. Melissa Bartsch, the Director of Eastern Kentucky University’s Counseling Center, advocated for an expansion of the services the center provides to include after-hours crisis services which are now available 24 hours per day, seven days a week. 

The addition of after-hours crisis services was viewed as a necessary change because mental health crises don’t adhere to business hours and can arise at any time,” Bartsch said. “When students are dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other concern, they often need to have access to support and services in the moment. Our new after-hours service meets that need for immediacy.”

After-hours crisis services  were added when Eastern contracted with ProtoCall, which has contracts with more than 275 other college and university Counseling Centers. The company has been in operation since 1992 and responds to more than 600,000 calls annually. “Within the field of collegiate mental health, ProtoCall is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for after-hours crisis support services,” Bartsch said. 

Crisis services are now available anytime, including after business hours: evenings, weekends, holidays and University closures. This new service augments the existing full spectrum of clinical services provided at the EKU Counseling Center and extends the reach to more students, at potentially critical times. The after-hours access to counselors is a complement to the Rapid Access services offered throughout the counseling center’s operating hours where students can contact and meet with a licensed provider the same day, no appointment needed.

Bartsch said in the last six years, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health,  the top concerns students are addressing in university counseling centers have been: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Academics
  • Relationships
  • Trauma
  • “This list also holds true for students utilizing the EKU Counseling Center, as well,” Bartsch said. 

“The current pandemic amplified this need for after-hours services just as it amplified all of the other stressors with which people are coping. Many of us have felt more raw and less grounded since the pandemic began,” she added. 

The University is also offering COVID-19 specific counseling services. “We offer a COVID support group, “Coping with COVID” three times per week for students who have tested positive for COVID and are in isolation. We have also added a workshop called “Tools for Tough Times: Navigating the New Normal” to assist with all the adjustments and changes that the pandemic has brought about,” Bartsch said. 

She added the concerns are part of the typical developmental journey of emerging adulthood and are exacerbated by a range of current environmental and sociopolitical factors including the pandemic. With the pandemic has come “losses of life, of connections, and of milestones. Financial and occupational restrictions as the economy and workforce have been impacted by the current pandemic, highly public, race-based murders and continued exposure to the recordings of those murders, and devastation from wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters” Bartsch said. She added, “we are also in what might be the most divisive and highly contentious election season in U.S. history where many people feel that their lives are on the ballot.”

In other words, there is a lot going on for young people that can directly and indirectly affect their lives. “Our current students are faced with all of these factors while also adjusting to a whole new set of rules and expectations where social distancing, masking up, and learning through remote and hybrid models are standard operating procedures,” she said.

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