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UCS briefed on CAPS initiatives

CAPS Director Will Meek discusses progress of reduced wait times, increased staff diversity

At the Undergraduate Council of Students’ weekly general body meeting Wednesday evening, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Will Meek spoke on efforts to make CAPS’ services more accessible to the student body.

When Meek assumed his role in spring 2017, CAPS had “just launched” a new system to reduce appointment wait times, Meek said. “Historically there was a two- to three-week wait to get a first appointment.”

Students typically now get appointments at CAPS within three to four days of requesting one, and about half of students who call can schedule a same-day appointment, Meek added. This change is “something we’ve been really proud of and something that has made a huge difference, I think, in terms of the care we’re able to provide and how responsive we are,” Meek said.

CAPS is looking to further shorten wait times in the spring “as the demand for the same-day stuff has really continued to increase,” he added.

CAPS has also worked to improve the diversity of its staff. “When I got here … about 45 percent of the providers considered themselves to be providers of color,” Meek said. “It’s 65 percent now,” he estimated.

CAPS also offers therapy in five languages in addition to English, Meek said. “That’s another effort that we’re going to continue to try to expand out as much as possible.”

Another CAPS project is to identify and develop methods to provide long-term care, he said.

Though CAPS’ “bread and butter” is “goal-focused care” where students work toward a specific objective, Meek noted that the office is “really working on ways of providing (long-term care) where it’s really needed, particularly for students whose ability to even stay at Brown is in jeopardy.”

“I would hope to come back to UCS next year and be able to say we’ve got a real plan” for long-term care, he added.

UCS Secretary Vanessa Garcia ’20.5 asked Meek about how he is “responding to” a lawsuit filed against Stanford University alleging that the university improperly placed students on involuntary medical leave. Garcia asked Meek how he plans “to regain the trust of people who have been involuntarily put on medical leave” at Brown.

Meek said he is not aware of any involuntary medical leaves originating from CAPS since he started as director in March 2017.

CAPS does not have a policy against placing people on involuntary medical leave, he said. But “what I’ve tried to create is the philosophical approach … to be a force that can try to prevent the need for medical leave at all, if possible, let alone these sort of involuntary” cases, Meek said.

Meek has worked to reduce barriers for taking medical leave and to reform the process of returning from medical leave, he said. “I’m all about people’s choices. I don’t stigmatize people that want to leave. I think that’s okay, too.”

UCS Appointments Chair Jason Carroll ’21 asked Meek whether he thinks it can “ever be intimidating” for students concerned about privacy to come to CAPS, considering its current location on the fifth floor of Page-Robinson Hall.

Meek said the current location is “not at all the ideal situation,” noting its proximity to the IT Service Center and frequent traffic on the floor.

“If we’re talking about stigma or somebody holding on to some of that,” the location is a “barrier that I’m really unhappy about,” he said.

CAPS will relocate to the planned health and wellness center at 450 Brook St., which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2021.

Meek also stressed the importance of student feedback and his dedication to CAPS’ continued improvement. Students can email Meek or CAPS to provide feedback, Meek added. “I’m all ears for ideas.”


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