YSU Addresses Lack of Mental Health Services

By Lauren Foote

Youngstown State University’s Counseling Services currently employs one mental health counselor, fewer than other Ohio public universities of similar size.

Excluding interns and trainees, Bowling Green State University has 11 staff members to serve its population of 18,856 students, Cleveland State University employs nine staff for its 17,260 students and Wright State University has 10 staff for its 18,059 students.

YSU’s 12,471 students have only one counselor at their service.

Jake Protivnak, the chair of the department of counseling, special education and school psychology, said YSU utilizes a supervised intern to assist with the caseload.

“Many college campuses utilizes the services of clinical interns or college counseling to supplement the need for counselors on a campus,” Protivnak said.

Michael Reagle, associate vice president of student success, acknowledged the problem.

“We have one counselor on campus, and that is less than most universities our size — probably significantly less than most universities our size,” Reagle said. “The administration, specifically Tressel, recognized that and made it the top priority this year to boost up the number of mental health counselors on campus.”

Protivnak agreed.

“We have a significant need for additional counselors on our campus,” Protivnak said. “Additional college counselors would provide the opportunity for mental health awareness to reach across the campus.”

Reagle is leading the search for a new director of counseling services as the first step in increasing the number of counselors the University has at its disposal.

“The counseling director will help us address the mental health needs of the campus, helps to increase outreach to the campus to let them know what resources are available at their disposal,” Reagle said.

YSU President Jim Tressel said he wants our mental health services to meet the needs of students.

“It is astonishing how many students suffer from mental health issues,” Tressel said. “This issue needs to be addressed and hopefully this will add resources that the students need.”

Reagle said the number of mental health counselors on campus has fallen.

“I think through budget cuts and non-rehired positions and things like that we have slowly dwindled down to a number that is frankly not good for us,” Reagle said.

Hiring a director of counseling services is the first step in expanding the program.

“We are taking this one step at a time,” Reagle said. “This person will help us analyze how many counselors we need. We will try to double the amount we have now once we hire this person.”

After that, they will assess whether they need more assistants, counselors, psychologists or other therapists, according to Reagle.

“With the resources being as tight as they are around here, we will need at least one more. Then we will reevaluate and decide how to expand from there,” Reagle said.

Matthew Paylo, the counseling program director, said the American College Counseling Association recommends one counselor for every 300 students.

“One counselor to 2,000 students is a more realistic number,” he said.

The Jambar was unable to reach Anne Lally, the university’s mental health counselor, for comment.