Increase psychiatric care and accessibility on campus

By Daniel Crowley

The number of psychiatric providers at the University of Illinois is inadequate for the number of enrolled students. Given the current national crisis of school shootings and increased occurrences of violent crimes, this is a potential danger to students, staff and members of the Champaign-Urbana community at large.

There are currently three psychiatrists employed by the University of Illinois, to serve the needs of over 44,000 students, or a ratio of almost 15,000 students for every one psychiatrist. The wait time to get into an appointment with a psychiatrist is currently about eight weeks long, which is pretty typical.

For those unfamiliar, psychiatrists are doctors with a mental health specialty, who diagnose and treat mental health disorders, provide psychological counseling and prescribe medication. For someone who is severely mentally ill, they oftentimes require medication to help them cope with their symptoms.

While there are a number of trained, competent staff, including clinical social workers and psychologists serving this vulnerable population here at the University, psychiatrists are currently the only ones there specifically trained to prescribe medication for mental health related issues. For that reason, mentally ill students who wish to access medication must go through a slow, prolonged waiting period to get the treatment they need, or be referred to other providers in the community who oftentimes have an even longer waiting period. This prolonged wait for psychiatric care poses a threat, not only to these patients who may be suicidal or a threat to harm themselves, but also to other students, staff and members of the community who may be at risk of harm as well.

We need to increase accessibility to psychiatric care at the University. This can be accomplished by expanding funding for increased psychiatric staff to meet the ever growing needs of the entire community.

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    Daniel is a graduate student in Social Work.