Managing Monsour: Community Responses to Strained Mental Health Resources

Riley Harmon ’22
Staff Writer
Volume XXIX, Issue 3
October 30, 2019

Due to staff shortages, Student Health Services (SHS) operated exclusively as an urgent care facility from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22, leaving 5C students with limited access to medical care. Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (known as Monsour), though not explicitly included in an email on Oct. 3 notifying the Scripps community of the temporary suspension of SHS, has also seen significant delays in session availability.

Monsour exists to provide individual counseling, psychiatric medication management, screening for anxiety and depression, support for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), groups and workshops, consultation and referrals to community clinicians, crisis intervention and after-hours emergency consultation to students at the 5Cs, according to its website.

The facility currently has 10 full time therapists and two half-time therapists, according to Dr. Gary DeGroot, director of Monsour, as well as three post-doctoral fellow positions that rotate yearly. In an email on Oct. 16, 2019 Degroot wrote, “we are fully staffed.” Despite being fully staffed, there is a wait time of 17 days for a session at Monsour, according to Degroot.

However, multiple students indicated they have experienced wait times of anywhere from two to six weeks.

This increase in wait time may be attributed to heightened demand for Monsour sessions. DeGroot wrote in an email, “we have already had an increase in students seen at the center, as compared to last year at this time.” Abby Sorkin ’20 described overwhelming feelings of dissatisfaction and detachment towards Monsour due to extensive waiting periods for sessions. “I have not used counseling even though I probably should have,” Sorkin said. “I was well aware of the fact that the wait times are so long that if you just need it infrequently or you just are suddenly dealing with something or something comes up, there’s no one to talk to there.”

Monsour administration appears to recognize that its wait times can be an obstacle for students seeking mental health support. While “MCAPS does a great job in the services it offers to students,” DeGroot said, “as evidenced by the wait times for an intake appointment and the high demand for services at MCAPS, there is more work to be done to meet students’ needs to the fullest extent.”

Many Scripps students agree upon the necessity of expanded resources at Monsour. “I think [Monsour] does what it can, but simply does not have the capacity to adequately help every student who would benefit from their resources,” said a Scripps student who chose to remain anonymous, through an informal survey conducted by The Scripps Voice.

Other Scripps students expressed more intense feelings regarding Monsour. “College is a time when students need a lot of mental health help and safety, and I do not feel safe in the hands of Monsour at all,” another anonymous Scripps student said.

This is not an uncommon sentiment. “Many people come to Scripps to find a place of safety and comfort and community, and that mission is totally undermined by the skewed priorities of the administration,” another anonymous student said.

However, some students did cite positive experiences with Monsour. According to one anonymous Scripps student who did not feel that her first therapist at Monsour was a good fit, she was able to find one with whom she maintains a good relationship. Another Scripps student who chose to remain anonymous wrote they had successfully “met with admin who have connected me to resources and helped me talk to professors.” According to this student, her therapist was able to “[help] me a lot, especially since I’d never been in therapy before, and everyone in the office always made me feel

According to Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson, Scripps takes a holistic approach towards mental health. “The resources provided at Monsour are just one aspect of a comprehensive network of mental health support for our students,” Johnson wrote. “The types of support provided make up a continuum, ranging from education, prevention, and awareness to direct services (like those provided by Monsour) and crisis intervention.”

Micah Sallus PZ ’20, an advocate for on-campus mental health support, discussed these contradictions between students, Monsour and Scripps administration regarding mental health support. Sallus has spent ample time on campus working to improve mental health services, leading to continual contact with DeGroot and other administrators within Monsour.

In recognition of a lack of qualitative data regarding student attitudes towards Monsour, Sallus is working to create a survey to capture people’s specific frustrations with the service. However, when Sallus tried to establish a student crisis hotline, he faced funding barriers from Monsour, which, Sallus was told, doesn’t have the budget flexibility to expand initiatives.

The 5C administrations have not found an efficient solution, instead “play[ing] a little blame game on each other,” Sallus said. When Monsour needs funding, it is easy for one of the 5Cs, “to pass the blame onto one of the other colleges or grad schools that it becomes stagnant.”

According to DeGroot, however, Monsour “routinely solicits client feedback and make adjustments as needed; we also routinely ensure that our procedures align with recommended best practices nationwide.”

Even if Monsour receives in- creased funding and becomes more receptive to student input, for some students it will be too little, too late. “I know what [Monsour] gave me and I know what it didn’t, and I know what it could’ve done,” Sorkin said.