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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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University Counseling Center sees increase in new clients

The University Counseling Center has seen an uptick in visitors seeking first-time help, two months after adopting its new fee policy allowing students six free sessions per year.

This September, the center saw a 25-percent surge in first-time clients compared to the same time last year, John Dages, director of the University Counseling Center, said.

“It’s not totally beyond what I was expecting,” Dages said, adding that the center sees a 20-percent rise in new clients every year, mirroring a growing national demand for mental support services.

The counseling center introduced its new model Sept. 6. Instead of paying $50 per session, students are now offered six visits at no cost. To make up for a projected budgetary shortfall, once students have used up their six free sessions, additional visits cost $60.

He attributes the spike in demand to the center’s extended hours, as well as the six free visits.

The counseling center added about 10 hours to its workweek, opening at 7:30 a.m. and closing at 6:30 p.m. three out of five days.

Looking at these figures, Dages said the new model is “very encouraging.” He noted that although traffic at the center has increased, there has been no waitlist and patients are seen quickly.

About eight weeks after the policy change, Dages said the center has yet to notice major revenue changes, explaining that insurance money was still coming in from the summer.

“At this point, it really hasn’t hit our budget,” he said, adding that, over the year, he expects to see some kind of revenue loss. The center will continue to monitor the budget. The center’s budget shortfall will be in part offset by the University’s decision to cut the daily paper program, which cost $52,000 yearly.

“Most students are using well within the six sessions at no cost,” Dages said. “We’re only now into the part when we can monitor the students who are going beyond that.”

When the new fee structure rolled out in September, the center expanded its reserve of part-time staff, anticipating the demand surge. The center has about six clinical affiliates who can be called in at busy periods, compared to about four affiliates last year.

Dages said it is too early to tell how many students will require more than six sessions. In past years, students were seen an average of 4.3 times, and Dages said this year is consistent with that figure.

“We’re optimistic,” Dages said. “Things seem to be running smoothly for the students, and that’s the important thing.”

Junior Rachel Krausman, co-founder of the campus group Active Minds, said she has talked to many students who decided to go to the counseling center for the first time this year, in part because of the eliminated fee.

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