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CPS denies existence of ‘watch list,’ ODUS involvement in mental health evaluations

Counseling and Psychological Services does not maintain a “watch list” of students of concern that it shares with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, CPS director Calvin Chin and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Michael Olin said at a dialogue about mental health evaluations between students and administrators Friday afternoon.

The dialogue followed an initial dialogue that took place on Tuesday. The Tuesday discussion emphasized that CPS does not share information about its conversations with students with ODUS and that students are not required to follow treatment recommendations to gain readmittance.

U-Councilor Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15 had asked about the existence of a “watch list” at the meeting on Friday because of a 2007 Princeton Alumni Weekly article in which former Director of University Health Services Daniel Silverman said that CPS regularly shared information about students with ODUS. John Kolligian, the current Director of UHS, explained that Silverman may have been “trumping up” more limited lists after the Virginia Tech massacre that CPS maintains to allay fears about a mass shooting, saying that there has not been such a “watch list” during his 10 years as CPS director and UHS director at the University.

Silverman may have been referring to two sorts of scenarios, Kolligian added. The first is a list of students of concern in support groups for internal CPS use only and the other is the formal evaluation process in which ODUS, based on information brought to its attention by students, residential college advisors or residential college administrators, can request that a student undergo CPS evaluation.

In response to a recent anonymous guest op-ed in The Daily Princetonian, Olin said he recognized that the treatment provider forms being sent by the student’s Director of Student Life created the mistaken impression that ODUS administrators or the residential colleges are involved in evaluating the opinions of students’ outside therapists. The treatment provider form is part of the readmission application. Only CPS sees the treatment provider forms, he said, and the University is considering re-working the process of sending out the letter.

According to a copy of the letter included in the guest op-ed, students seeking readmission need to fill out a “Questions for Treatment Providers Form” and then sign two copies of an authorization form to release medical records. The first copy authorizes CPS to have access to the medical information and the second form authorizes CPS to discuss the information with ODUS.

The “Questions for Treatment Providers Form,” which is four pages long, asks for detailed information about the treatment given to students. Among the questions asked are a list of medicines prescribed, the “focus and type of treatment” provided, the extent to which the student complied with treatment and an evaluation of the student’s readiness to return to school.

Also included is a check box of mental health problems. The treatment provider must check all that apply and then “elaborate with particular reference to any progress that the student has made in treatment in addressing these issues.”

Chin noted that the University will also consider cutting out questions on the treatment provider form that may be unnecessarily invasive and superfluous to the readmission process.

The majority of students brought to the attention of ODUS by students or staff do not leave the University community, and the primary role of ODUS is getting students to take CPS treatment recommendations seriously, Olin said. He noted that only two students in the past 10 years were denied readmission to the University for safety reasons.

Students are free to not visit CPS after ODUS has requested they do so, Olin explained, and added ODUS has no way of verifying whether a given student has visited CPS.

Most students who express suicidal thoughts to CPS or are hospitalized for a suicide attempt or other mental health reason do not withdraw and are instead treated by CPS or another provider, Chin said.

A safety threat to oneself has to be imminent to pursue involuntary withdrawal, Olin added.

Students should not feel as if the readmission meeting with a CPS clinician is an interview in which they have to impress someone to regain admittance, Chin said. Rather, the process serves only to ensure the safety of the community and help to formulate treatment recommendations going forward, he said.

In his experience, however, students who fail to follow CPS treatment recommendations are more likely to withdraw again, Olin said.

He added that CPS was going to restart the Princeton Depression Awareness Program next year to provide a support group for friends of people struggling with mental illness, that he was going to hold office hours to discuss mental health issues and policies with students and that CPS will be posting frequently asked questions on its website over the summer.

Chin added he was receptive to suggestions that CPS include students who have dealt with mental illness in a CPS presentation during freshman orientation next year and that CPS better consider the experience of students with psychotic disorders by excluding them from the voluntary mental health “check-ups” it conducts in the residential colleges and in other ways.

Olin said his biggest fear is that a student not seek help for a mental health issue because they believe they will be forcibly withdrawn from the University.

“That’s really scary,” Olin said.

Okuda-Lim said the dialogues would continue in the fall.

The event was organized by the ODUS, UHS, CPS, the Princeton Mental Health Initiative and the USG Senate.

 

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