Nov 05, 2019
HACC Update on Clinical Mental Health Counseling Services
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The academic success, well-being and safety of the 17,000 students at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, remain at the forefront as the College restructures to be fiscally responsible and streamline services.
HACC continues to provide a range of vital services to support students’ academic success. The College also continues to address the clinical mental health needs of students with our existing three-tier protocol.
As part of the larger reorganization, the College determined that our limited personnel and financial resources must focus on educational supports that help our students succeed academically and do not replicate services already available in our communities.
Faculty Counselors Furloughed Effective October 2020
Restructuring in student affairs has been under discussion for several years to determine how to best serve our students. The College also reviewed the demand for clinical mental health counseling services over the previous four years to assess the potential for the deans of students and their designees to respond to the requests for clinical mental health counseling services collegewide.
In 2018-19, for example, less than 1% of HACC’s 17,000 students required clinical mental health counseling services.
Leading up to the transition, HACC administrators discussed the College’s current clinical mental health counseling practices. After a review of faculty counseling services, the decision was made to eliminate the average of one or two sessions per situation for a student needing clinical mental health counseling and refer them directly to an appropriate provider. That way, the student does not have to transition from one counselor for one or two sessions to another counselor for additional help. Although liability is always a factor in protecting students and employees at any institution, it was not discussed in detail in making this decision.
As part of the restructuring, HACC provided 20 faculty counselors notice of their furlough to occur in October 2020. This follows the College’s shared governance policy of providing faculty 12 months’ notice. Because of this policy, the decision had to be announced in advance while plans were being made to secure a third-party provider to expand and improve clinical mental health services. These employees also are eligible to receive severance packages per the existing shared governance policy.
HACC administrators then worked with the deans of students to ensure they are trained on the protocols to help students in crisis and that students needing clinical mental health counseling services would continue to be referred to the College’s existing list of local resources.
Faculty counselors remain fully employed until October 2020 and continue to meet the other needs of students, such as:
- Goal setting, academic planning, advising and college success skills
- Career and transfer exploration
- Listening to concerns
- Balancing college and life demands that may cause stress or anxiety
- Connections to local and community resources for food insecurity, housing needs, domestic violence situations and ongoing counseling support
The College has no additional plans for transitions for the faculty counselors. Those positions will be eliminated in October 2020 as part of a collegewide restructuring. Consistent with the College’s approach to restructuring, positions that are furloughed may be re-classified to meet the service needs of the students.
Students Continue to be Informed of Available Clinical Mental Health Counseling Services
Students have been and will continue to be informed individually about clinical mental health counseling professionals and local providers when they are in need of these services. Several conversations are taking place with external providers to provide even better clinical mental health services, such as 24/7 access and online counseling. When the College makes that determination, students and employees will be notified.
The system that was implemented in September 2019 is working well. A student who seeks clinical mental health counseling is referred to their campus dean of students. The deans of student affairs are trained on the protocols to help students in crisis and to make external referrals. Each dean works with the student who comes before them and makes an appropriate referral based on that student’s needs and the options available in their local community. Contact information of the third-party providers is verified before sharing it with the student.
In the event of a crisis, the dean works with campus security to ensure the student is safe and gets the necessary treatment to mitigate the crisis.
While HACC no longer provides clinical mental health counseling, making sure students are still handled with compassion and care is at the core of the College’s decision-making.
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is the first and largest of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges. HACC offers approximately 100 career and transfer associate degree, certificate and diploma programs to approximately 19,000 students. Also, the College serves students at its Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York campuses; through virtual learning; and via workforce development and continuing education training. For more information on how HACC is uniquely YOURS, visit hacc.edu. Also, follow us on Twitter (@HACC_info), follow us on Instagram (@HACC_edu), like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/HACC64) and use #HACCNews.