Students in need of psychological services say Calpulli falls flat

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Students in need of psychological services say Calpulli falls flat

A new walk-in health service is available to help students with minor illnesses and injuries.

A new walk-in health service is available to help students with minor illnesses and injuries.

File photo

A new walk-in health service is available to help students with minor illnesses and injuries.

File photo

File photo

A new walk-in health service is available to help students with minor illnesses and injuries.

by Kaitlyn Little, Senior Staff Writer

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Many students have voiced frustration with their experiences with San Diego State’s psychological services at Calpulli, however, they’re drastically understaffed in their operations.

With more students being admitted every year, the staff to student ratio is supposed to keep up with the standard of one therapist to every 1,500 students. Jennifer Rikard, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said her department has struggled to keep up with this figure.

The demand for services is rising faster than the staff is growing. But Rikard said SDSU President Adela de la Torre has shown interest in bulking up staff numbers.

“We’re like one (therapist) to 1,800 or 1,900 (students), or something like that,” Rikard said. “We’re approaching (one therapist to 1,500 students). I’ve been here for 17 years and we were flat for a really long time. So, I think we’re going in the right direction.”

At Calpulli, students can call and be recommended to a therapist based on their specific situation, insurance, finances and available transportation.

Marine biology sophomore Grace Addleman said she called and received a list of six therapists for her situation based on her specifications. Three were in downtown, which Addleman said was a problem for her to get to because she doesn’t have a car and can’t afford to use a rideshare service for that distance. One never got back to her, Addleman said, and one wasn’t accepting new patients. That left just one therapist she was able to schedule a meeting with.

“I got a bill for $200 for one visit a month (after the appointment),” Addleman said. “And they said she was under my insurance provider. That was just super frustrating because that was like the first criteria that I had: having it under my insurance.”

Addleman said students need more services on campus at Calpulli.

“They need to expand so they can have more people, have more contacts, resources (and) services,” Addleman said. “They need a better database. They need more staff. That’s the bottom line because an egg chair is great and Baxter is really cute, but that’s not enough.”

International security and conflict resolution sophomore Natalie Mathiesen said when she went to Calpulli, she was also referred to a list of therapists covered by her health insurance. But she said upon actually trying to get an appointment, she found out her insurance didn’t end up covering any providers in San Diego, so she had to fly home (Northern California) to get the help she needed.

“With a school of (about) 35,000 people, we don’t necessarily have enough people to support (mental health),” Mathiesen said. “I don’t think it’s Calpulli’s fault or anything like that. I think we just need more counselors or therapists to help sustain the school. In reality, there shouldn’t be a waitlist for people with mental health issues.”

Nursing sophomore Andrea Lapuz said she went to Calpulli therapists for an entire semester. However, she said when she called back for the next semester, Calpulli told her she needed a more long-term service that couldn’t be provided at Calpulli.

“It made me a little frustrated with the whole situation,” Lapuz said. “Just because I know that they advertise it that it’s more short-term but I think the fact that I received services and that might’ve played into the fact they didn’t want to give me more service after that was kind of a deterrent. So, I haven’t gone back to Counseling and Psychological Services for that reason.”

Rikard said she understands this frustration. She said if somebody needs a certain type of care, they try to do what’s best for the person.

“I also will say that sometimes people call in and expecting one thing and we offer another, and sometimes the gold standard for what they’re experiencing is not what they thought,” Rikard said.

Rikard said their work comes with liability and those deemed liable are not people they seek to avoid, but rather they try to pick care that may be more accessible to the patient, considering Calpulli’s hours are limited.

“So for example, if we believe that someone needs access to 24-hour coverage, they need to be able to call their therapist at off-hours, that’s not really how we’re set up,” Rikard said. “So we wouldn’t maybe be the appropriate level of treatment. If somebody is having suicidal thoughts, that’s not someone I’m going to say, ‘OK, let’s put you on the waitlist and see what happens.’ No, I want you to go out and I want you to get connected now and we can do that.”

She said many of the criticisms of Calpulli are rooted in misconceptions, but that the center still has its issues.

“I think there’s a lot of misperceptions, not just on the part of students, but faculty, staff and parents too (in) trying to tell them how we do things and why,” Rikard said. “But then there’s not only misperception, there’s also a capacity issue. We can (only) do so much.”

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