ECAPS and CHW continue merging process, seek suggestions for naming new department

Emersons+Center+for+Health+and+Wellness+will+merge+with+its+Center+for+Psychological+Services.+Photo+by+Maddie+Khaw.

Emerson’s Center for Health and Wellness will merge with its Center for Psychological Services. Photo by Maddie Khaw.

By Maddie Khaw, Assistant Enterprise News Editor

When Brendan Walker reached out to Emerson’s Counseling and Psychological Services as a first-year student, he was connected with a counselor within just five days of contacting the department.

Last year, as a sophomore, the business of creative enterprises major tried reaching out to ECAPS again. This time, two and a half months passed before he received the psychological services he needed.

“I understand they’ve had really big issues with request volume, which has made it incredibly hard to actually get in touch and get the resources that students are looking for,” Walker said.

Walker’s trouble receiving care isn’t an isolated occurrence. Other students who spoke with The Beacon have also reported difficulties scheduling appointments, accessing resources, and getting in contact with counselors through ECAPS.   

For first-year communications major Sophia Jreij, booking an ECAPS appointment online proved to be impossible, as the website alerted her that no counselors had availability within the month.  

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“It’ll say that for every single month,” Jreij said. “I think you need to call if you ever want to make an actual appointment.” 

Jreij never ended up calling, which she said seems more complicated than scheduling online. This complication makes counseling services less accessible, she said — especially since “just to accept that you want to get help is a hard thing to do.”

Since February of last year, the college has been working on merging ECAPS with the Center for Health and Wellness in an effort to combine services for students’ mental and physical well-being into one department. This integration aims to enact a more holistic approach to on-campus healthcare. 

College officials invited students to help name the new department through a Google Form. The original deadline for name suggestions was April 1, but the form is now being kept open “in case others feel inclined to add,” said Associate Dean and Director of Counseling, Health, and Wellness, Brandin Dear, who was hired in 2021 to spearhead the merging project

“We thought inviting student suggestions would be a fun way to announce that we are at this exciting stage,” Dear said. “We thank those students who took the time to make a suggestion.”

Dear said he received over 20 responses from students with name suggestions, a few of which mirrored the department’s own ideas. The new name will likely be decided by the beginning of summer, Dear added, with an update on the overall status of the merger expected at the start of the Fall 2022 semester.  

As of now, ECAPS and CHW have combined their staff scheduling systems and hold weekly meetings across departments. 

“By having all of our providers on one team, we increase our knowledge base, communication, collaboration, and resources,” Dear said. 

The department is working to hire more staff, combine its websites and social media accounts, consolidate policies and procedures, and prepare programming and increased services for the fall academic term in addition to the name change, Dear said.

While junior writing, literature, and publishing major Caroline Helms did not submit any suggestions to the name survey, she said she would propose removing the term “wellness” from the name.

“I feel like ‘wellness’ is a really coded word when talking about health issues,” Helms said. “If you look up the Center for Health and Wellness as it is on the website, one of the things they talk about is helping students with weight loss. Health is not contingent on weight, and ‘wellness’ is a word that’s kind of being used right now to replace diet and the dieting industry.”

Jreij hopes that the integration of the two offices will lead to increased resources, which could help eliminate access barriers.

“I hope that this means that they’ll have more staff,” Jreij said. “Because I think the reason as to why there aren’t any meetings available online is because they’re short in staff… So maybe the bigger the department is, the more staff they’ll have, and it’ll make it easier.”

According to calculations derived by Emerson’s staff union based on figures given in the college’s Factbook, in 2018-2020 both undergraduate and graduate programs grew by around 13 percent while the number of staff working at the college dropped by two percent.

First-year business of creative enterprises major Leo Lukaszevicz said that while he hopes the integrated department will offer a “variety of solutions” to students seeking mental health support, he thinks the offices would be more effective if kept separate.

“I feel like mental health should be its own separate thing,” Lukaszevicz said. “If it’s already a hard process now, why would you mix it in with physical health?”

Dear hopes the merger will positively impact students in how they view and engage with their health in both the physical and mental sense. 

“We want to help students better understand that factors such as sleep, movement, and diet have a significant impact on the mind and body,” he said. “Ultimately, we want to be a welcoming place where students can get the resources they need to attend to their overall health.”