Yale College expands mental health resources amid student calls for expanded

Yasmine Halmane, Staff Photographer

On Monday afternoon, University and Yale College administrators unveiled new additions and reforms to University mental health offerings as students continue to push for change.

In an April 5 email to undergraduates, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun and Chief of Yale Mental Health and Counseling Paul Hoffman announced two expansions to mental health resources that will together add 14 full-time staff positions, ten of which will be MHC clinicians, to Yale’s mental health resources. University Provost Scott Strobel and Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives Pericles Lewis also told the News about Yale’s increasing prioritization of mental health resources. 

The changes, though in the works for many months, come at a time of heightened student criticism of Yale’s mental health and wellness resources. They were also announced just one day before a new coalition of students, Mental Health Justice at Yale, released a set of demands for reforms to Yale’s mental health services. Those demands include doubling the duration of the default counseling session from 30 minutes to one hour, allowing healthcare professionals to write Dean’s excuses and switching to a Preferred Partner Organization insurance option, which would give students more flexibility to work with outside providers.

The coalition has also demanded that MHC increase current clinician numbers by 50 percent by the end of 2021, 75 percent by the end of 2022 and 100 percent by the end of 2023. The ten new clinicians added to MHC staff constitute a 30 percent increase.

“We are doing everything we can to indicate to students, faculty and staff that their mental health and well-being is pivotal,” Strobel told the News. “Use support systems and resources provided by the University and reach out to friends, counselors, mentors, deans, heads of colleges and chaplains. It is important that we remain connected to people and help connect those who need extra support to necessary resources on campus. We stand ready to help.”

The first expansion of Yale’s mental health resources will be a new program in the residential colleges called Yale College Community Care, also known as “YC3” for short. YC3 will include eight new full-time staff members who will be affiliated with specific residential colleges and will support undergraduate students.

According to the email from Chun and Hoffman, the eight new residential college staff members include four college care clinicians and four community wellness specialists. College care clinicians are psychologists and licensed social workers available for drop-in support. Their offices will be near the residential colleges rather than in Yale Health. However, the clinicians are still a part of Yale Mental Health and Counseling staff, and meetings with them will be confidential. On the other hand, the community wellness specialists will be available to work with students on “practical strategies for your overall well-being.” These specialists will eventually have offices in the residential colleges, and they will work with heads of colleges, deans, first-year counselors and peer liaisons, forming a part of each residential college’s support system. 

“All eight YC3 clinicians and specialists expand the types and settings for mental health support and make it easier and faster for you to get counseling,” reads the email from Chun and Hoffman. “You can turn to any of them, even if you are unsure which option is best for you. Along with their own services, the YC3 staff will provide a pathway if you are thinking about pursuing more formal, ongoing therapy through Mental Health and Counseling.”

The other major announcement in the email was that MHC would add six new full-time positions at its Lock Street location, totaling ten new clinicians. There are currently 33 clinicians employed.

While the formal launch for the YC3 initiative is scheduled for the next academic year, the program has already begun operations. According to the email, two college care clinicians and two community wellness specialists have been hired and are working…

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