Walk-in system for counseling services sees success in decreasing wait times

CAPS is located on the second floor of Watkins Memorial Health Center. PHOTO BY JOHNNY MEEHAN/UDK  

NOTE: This article was published on kansan.com on Nov. 26, 2019. Click here to view it online.

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The number of first appointments to Counseling and Psychological Services throughout the month of September 2019 increased 64% from September 2018, said CAPS director Michael Maestas in an email to the Kansan.

The increase comes eight months after CAPS first implemented a walk-in model for initial appointments to combat wait times. With the new model, students who walk in to the CAPS office any time from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the school week are seen in the first available appointment slot. In the past, some students had to wait three to four weeks, Maestas said.

“We are seeing many more students, and the vast majority of students are pleased with this change,” Maestas said. 

Sometimes, all available first appointment slots are taken for the day. In that case, Maestas said CAPS requests that students return another day. 

Naomi Mendoza, a peer health educator and junior psychology major, has seen the effects of the new model. Mendoza said she walked in to CAPS during a morning time and secured an appointment within 30 minutes. 

“For me, it was definitely more convenient,” Mendoza said. “I know not everyone has that experience, and it kind of depends. It was really nice to literally go in and get out with what I needed that same day.” 

Mendoza added that she appreciates CAPS' new appointment system, despite fluctuating wait times depending on how many students walk in for appointments on a given day. 

“Our original problem was that the wait time was too long, and they made this change in an attempt to solve that problem and give students what they wanted, so I think it was a really good effort,” Mendoza said. “I think they did it with good intentions, and I think it does work to an extent.” 

Junior psychology major Natalie Martens said she has never used the walk-in model but scheduled appointments before it was implemented. The first time she scheduled an appointment, she had to wait a month to see a therapist, and the second time, she had to wait several weeks, she said. 

“Initially, it was stressful because I hadn’t done it yet, and then the second time I was like, ‘It’s fine. It’s not a problem. I can wait. It’s like a couple weeks. It’ll be here before I know it,’” Martens said. “I know the second time I did it there were things I wanted to talk about, and the first time it was a whole new experience — going there, going in and then getting involved with CAPS at all was new.” 

Martens said based on her experience with the former CAPS model, she can see the benefits of scheduling first-time patients through walk-ins.

“I think you’ll get more people in, or it’ll be easier to get people in instead of ending up playing phone tag and waiting months until you can see someone,” Martens said.

Tori Williams, a first-year graduate student in higher education, said she does not have personal experiences with the new walk-in model but has friends who have had fast experiences with the new changes. 

She also said the process here at the University appears to move more quickly than similar programs at other schools. 

“I know at other schools, it’s often really hard to get the first appointment, especially if you’re just doing a walk-in,” Williams said. “It seems like it’s moving a little bit faster here, though I’m sure they could probably use a little bit of extra support and staff person or two.” 

Despite its progress, Maestas said CAPS will continue evaluating the new model to understand daily use of the walk-in programs, get student feedback and more to make further adjustments.

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