Archive for Saturday, November 10, 2012

Counseling center in tough spot without KU funding

November 10, 2012


Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence was founded by Kansas University students in 1969, and since then many KU students and alumni have made or answered calls on its 24-hour crisis hotline.

But this summer, for the first time in 40 years, its financial ties to KU were cut.

At the end of June, Headquarters stopped receiving $36,000 in annual funding from KU’s Student Senate, which had contributed funds to the center since 1972. That came not long after the center’s annual United Way funding decreased by about $26,000.

Its annual budget for services in Douglas County is about $200,000, director Marcia Epstein said.

“How long can we operate with this budget? Honestly, I can’t tell you that for sure,” Epstein said.

Headquarters’ Student Senate funding came into doubt in spring of 2011, when the Senate opted to end funding of four Lawrence agencies using a student fee primarily used to provide money for student groups, as of summer 2012. The other agencies affected were GaDuGi SafeCenter, Douglas County AIDS Project and Willow Domestic Violence Center.

The change drew opposition from some students and others, but Senate members said then they would look into other ways to fund the groups. And a group the following fall did just that.

As a result, leaders at the other three agencies said their KU funding has continued unchanged this fall. But funding for Headquarters? No more.

Carlye Yanker, the Student Senate treasurer for this school year, said members were unsure how many KU students were being helped by Headquarters’ crisis line, and they noticed that KU already had a Counseling and Psychological Services office on campus.

So the Senate instead is now funding a CAPS after-hours phone line provided through Kansas Health Solutions in Topeka, as well as a new clinical social worker for the office.

Senators thought that would ensure students’ fees would go toward services that would help them directly, Yanker said.

“Every student pays these, and we’re trying to be the voice for them,” Yanker said.

She also noted that the Kansas Health Solutions line is staffed by mental health professionals, as opposed to the largely volunteer force used by Headquarters.

“We thought that was better for the students, and effective,” Yanker said.

The new CAPS after-hour service, which became available to KU students at the same time Headquarters’ funding was cut off, provides assessment and referral services, can help students in need of psychiatric hospitalization, assistance in cases of “acute psychological distress” and a few other services, said CAPS clinical director Pam Botts in an email.

But Headquarters’ workers, even though many are volunteers, are trained more specifically on suicide prevention, Epstein said. The center is credentialed by the American Association of Suicidology for suicide prevention, unlike the Kansas Health Solutions line or any other service in Kansas.

Botts, too, said that was not the specialty of the new CAPS line.

“This is not a suicide prevention hotline,” Botts said.

She noted that students still have the option of calling the Headquarters line if they’re in need.

Epstein, though, said Headquarters had been forced to cut back in several ways since it became apparent that its KU funding would soon be cut off. It has eliminated a full-time staff position and two part-time jobs, and it ended its longtime practice of advertising twice per week in the University Daily Kansan to spread the word to students about its service.

“We’ve pretty much eliminated advertising expenses,” Epstein said.

That’s unfortunate, she said, because the center’s success depends partly on its ability to get the word out about its services.

The staff has three employees now, all full-time, in addition to 35 volunteers, many of whom are KU students. It also pays considerable phone costs, Epstein said. The center also provides other local services in addition to its 24-hour counseling line, ranging from bereavement support groups to children’s safety programs.

Headquarters did receive a three-year $480,000 federal grant earlier this year, but that can be used only for new statewide suicide-prevention programs, not for its Douglas County services.

“We certainly are working hard to come up with enough money, little places here and there,” Epstein said.

According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment data, seven deaths by suicide occurred among 15- to 24-year-olds in Douglas County during 2010 and 2011 — as many that occurred during the four-year span from 2006-2009.

Epstein pointed to a National Alliance on Mental Illness survey of college students with mental health conditions released last week that showed those students considered a 24-hour crisis hotline to be the single most critical mental health crisis service available on campus.

She recalled that student senators had asked how many of the people served at Headquarters were KU students, and she had been able to provide concrete statistics. Compiling that information can be difficult, she said, but the center’s staff is working to improve its record-keeping with a new electronic system.

Perhaps with help from improved numbers, Epstein said she hoped to push for reinstated Student Senate funding in the future. It would re-establish a direct link to KU that had existed for Headquarters since KU students founded it 43 years ago.

“That’s pretty historic,” Epstein said. “That’s pretty impressive. It should be something for KU to be really proud of.”


bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

given the mercurial nature of student governments,, perhaps it would be best for Headquarters to simply look for another funding source longterm. 31% funding loss is bad, andthey shouldn't have to stop serving or advertising to students. advertising to students can save students lives.

*we all must help headquarters, headquarters saves lives: 841-2345 24/7. they do it right.

this community puts up 2% for art but can't save lives by preventing suicide. this is bad.

question4u 5 years, 7 months ago

Why don't you do it? Much of that is available through three clicks of a mouse. Isn't it rather arrogant to ask others to do the work for you?

bubblesinkansas 5 years, 7 months ago

Maybe it's time for HQ to consider merging with another agency - Bert Nash?!

Alpenglow 5 years, 7 months ago

Or maybe it's time for a new director? Ms. Epstein has been at the helm of this organization for much too long. They appear to be in dire need of new and fresh leadership. In the countless interviews I have seen of her on the news the past year or so, she seems tired and haggard. Headquarters was relevant at one time, but they have not changed as the times have. Why hasn't the board forced some much needed change? Time for a new career while she still has time and the opportunity to exit with some dignity intact.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

I'd say Headquarters has changed throughout the years. But the direction in which they've changed moves them ever closer to the type of services of Bert Nash. Hence, the comment of bubblesinkansas should be given serious consideration.

RoseStillNose 5 years, 7 months ago

I couldn't disagree more. Headquarters is relevant today, and saves lives. Her passion, devotion and leadership is what allows Headquarters to remain operational. And, I'd hate to work for a nonprofit whose board FORCED anything to happen. What ever happened to collaboration? A nonprofit board is supposed to be there to support the organization, not FORCE things to happen.

peartree 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm a little confused. If they have a large new grant for KS services (phone based services), and they are mostly answering the phone from calls within Douglas County too, where is the discrepancy with the new money? How can it be money for "greater Kansas" and kept separate from money spend paying the phone bill for calls from within the county? Especially considering lots of these numbers will be from cell phones with greater Kansas area codes (as they belong to students.) I'm just curious how it works.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

well, first because Headquarters operates more than one hotline, that's the main difference, in answer to he above question.
841-2345 is local, the 800-number is different with different expenses.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

no, Headquarters and Bert Nash are quite different in the services offered for the immediate, on the phone.
also, many people will be much more comfortable calling such a center as HQ under stress than calling BN, andsome may actually not put it together that they need to call BN.
then, HQ can help a caller develop a plan that might include working with bert nash, for example.

several yearws ago, the interaction between lmh and BN regarding suicide was incredibly bad! and without Headquarters we'd have lost more of our fellow citizens to suicide.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

alpenglow, so Marcia Epstein looks "haggard to you?
what've you don about it? suppose she's looking haggard because: it's much harder to find volunteers nowadays? or, because her funding is under threat? and yet, there's a major risk for suicide in our community that's higher than the rest of kansas because of the community we have.

... you suppose all these issues rest heavily on her shoulders?
what have you done to help?

bubblesinkansas 5 years, 7 months ago

Non-profit boards are the ones accountable and responsible for agencies. A board can indeed "force" an issue - that is the job of the board. An executive director does not have - or shouldn't have - more say in how the organization operates or even if it exists than the board of directors.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

wilbur: here's why our community has more suicide concentrated than other kansas communities: 1. we have a hih concentration of young adults beyond the usual number of high schoolers. 2. we have a sizeable population of native americans (american indians) who also have increased rate of suicide in america. 3. there's evidence of a rising rate among people over 60.

  1. add to those groups the usual american background rate of depression and other suicide precursors.

there you have it.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

they have a movie there for those curious.

peartree 5 years, 7 months ago

They do important work,. I just don't understand this: they gained $400,000 from one source and lost $30,000 from another, yet they are laying off 2.5 FTE due to the loss? Obviously their workload will be increasing. And are they really supporting 2.5 FTE on $30,000?

You can't blame the Student Senate for wanting student fees to go to student services. School loans and interest are back-breakingly high.

It's a tough spot when they have relied on that funding, for sure.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

^^Damn Dirty Republicans, you know all of those students in the student senate are Young Republicans. Yes, yes, yes...the republicans want people to kill themselves...

=sarcasm, I hope.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

well PT, Headquarters being independent is both a strength and a weakness.

strength: people will be more likely to contact them, and they have greater freedom to change and respond. weakness, they're not wedded directly to justone population, they answer the phone for whoever calls. now I personally think that's a great thing, but that means that it's not always KU students thatre calling.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.