Students now charged for missing psychiatric appointments, students discouraged

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DePauw Wellness advertises free mental and physical healthcare, but at the start of the spring semester that claim came with a disclaimer. 

For missed psychiatric appointments, DePauw students are now charged $165 if they do not cancel their appointment well in advance. A follow up appointment no-show is $85. These charges get put on the student account bill as confidential. 

This change was made to act as an incentive for students to show up to psychiatric appointments, but not all students find the current psychiatric offerings helpful. Some say that the level of care has been damaging to their overall health and that DePauw students should skip visiting the DePauw psychiatrist all together. 

“It was one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me,” said junior Vocal Performance major Brittny Goon. Goon has fought depression and anxiety for most of her life and during her sophomore she year was diagnosed with ADHD. To help manage, Goon reached out to counseling services, specifically the bi-monthly psychiatric care.  

“We make every effort to follow students initially prescribed meds at two weeks,” said DePauw’s visiting psychiatrist Dr. Mark Snelson. Dr. Snelson has been visiting campus twice a month for four years and performs similar services for Ball State while also running his own private practice. 

“I really applaud DePauw for offering this service to students,” said Dr. Snelson “Not all small colleges have that on site.” 

Goon said that she waited up to two months to meet with Dr. Snelson. Goon claims that he prescribed medication that was counterproductive in her treatment and caused her medical problems. When her medication wasn’t sufficiently fixed, she had to go back home to recover. She said that not a lot of thought on Dr. Snelson's part went into her diagnosis and that it was “the worst thing they could have done.” 

Goon now visits a psychiatrist in her hometown and has not gone back to the counseling center at DePauw. 

Another DePauw sophomore, who chose to remain anonymous, made similar statements. “He changed my medicine four times in the first semester,” said the student, who noted that one of the medications made her continuously nauseous. Some medications were also incredibly difficult to get off of. 

Dr. Snelson defended his choice of care. “I wish we had a means to say, ‘this medicine is the right choice for you,’” said Dr. Snelson, “We have lots of choices.” 

University officials acknowledge the shortcomings of the service the university provides. 

“We are always going to be challenged in need of psychiatric services,” said Vice President of Student Life, Christopher Wells. Wells does stress that the simple fact that DePauw, in its rural location and small size, has a psychiatrist is impressive. 

“It’s not unusual at all for schools like us to not have a psychiatric person,” Wells said. 

But students see it differently. 

“It’s lazy to say that we are doing better than other places,” said junior Cate Hensley. Hensley has suffered with depression and does not feel that the current treatment from the counseling center, especially regarding the in-house psychiatric resources and the charges for missed meetings, is useful. 

“I don’t understand why they would put any disincentive on mental health,” Hensley said. “Someone missing an appointment can be cause for concern.” 

Dr. Snelson sees a need for the cancelation fee. “We really want to help students who want to help themselves,” said Dr. Snelson, “It weeds out those who are committed to treatment.” 

University officials likewise defend the new policy. 

“As soon as you graduate you aren’t going to get free psychiatry anywhere,” said Director of the Counseling Center Dr. Julie d’Argent. Dr. d’Argent reported that DePauw counseling services has seen a 220% increase in students who are either not attending their appointments or canceling too late to fill their slot. 

It’s not always possible to cancel, students say. 

“People are in crisis, taking semesters off,” said Hensley, “They don’t have the resources to prioritize mental health [appointments].” 

“I get what they are trying to do,” Goon said, but stressed that she does not feel that DePauw counseling is moving in the right direction. “It’s a dangerous game,” she said.