College holds discussion on TCNJ Clinic’s fate

By Kristen Frohlich
Staff Writer

The College held two public forums for students and members of the community to express their opinions on the potential closing of the TCNJ Clinic on Monday, Sept. 11, and Tuesday, Sept. 12.

The forums were facilitated by Tim Fowles, the clinic director for psychology at the University of Delaware, and Yvonne Castillo, the director of the Counseling and Training Clinic at Texas A&M University. These two external reviewers “have no correlation with the College” and were there “to gain perspective from as many diverse perspectives as possible,” according to Fowles.

Fowles and Castillo asked the audience to answer two general questions about the clinic: “What do you see from your perspective and what is your perspective?”

Cassandra Jackson, an English professor at the College, expressed her concern of the potential closing of the clinic. Jackson said that she is currently in a position where she “finds students in situations that are in need of long term care,” but that she is unsure of where to send students due to the possible closure of the clinic.

Jackson said that she is worried that with the impending closure of the clinic, students will not have a simple solution to their health care needs. Jackson is “struggling” to figure out solutions that will not be too costly on copays or transportation for her students.

“The clinic is an on-campus resource for students who need long term care and expertise,” Jackson said. “Many students are worried about stigma and are worried about their parents knowing their mental health, therefore, they rely on the clinic. It is also an affordable and accessible way for students to receive the help they need.”

The closure of the clinic will impact students involved with the marriage, couple and family counseling and therapy graduate program at the College. Jean Banti — who runs the non-profit organization, Contextual Family Services — has been in the Ewing, N.J. area for 17 years.  Banti said that students would do work at the clinic and then come to Contextual Family Services after completing their work with the clinic.

In order to work in the field of marriage counseling and to obtain a marriage license, one must have a certain amount of experience, according to Banti. With the closure of the clinic, “students will not have the opportunity to work in the field due to the lack of clinical training.”

The potential disappearance of the TCNJ Clinic is impacting the freshman class, according to Madhav Patel, a junior biology major and community advisor who deals with many anxious freshmen during this time of year.

As a CA, Patel helps freshmen receive the help they need. Without having an on-campus resource to send his residents, Patel feels that their needs are undervalued.

“The closure of the clinic sends a message to the community that TCNJ doesn’t care about the mental health of their students,” Patel said.

Evan Bianco, a freshman interactive multimedia major, stated that he has positively benefited from mental health resources before coming to the College. Bianco worries that with the closure of the clinic, many students won’t be as lucky as he was to find care somewhere else.

Bianco also highlights that many students “may not have room to spend money on off-campus resources.”

Josh Trifari, a freshman music major, is concerned about the potential closure of the clinic. Although Trifari is new to campus, he worries that “the closure of the clinic is going to disproportionately affect the TCNJ and Trenton community.”

Trifari emphasized that the clinic is a worthwhile resource for the community despite the expense of keeping it open.

“The clinic may seem not profitable or even a waste of money but in the end, it helps people in the community,” Trifari said.

Chris Loos, a junior history major, supported the TCNJ Clinic in its ability to offer low cost counseling services to students at the College and the surrounding community.

“(The clinic is) an enormous resource on campus, price cannot be put on it,” Loos added.

A final decision on the potential closure of the clinic will be made no later than Oct. 31, pending a self-assessment from the Department of Counselor Education and a written report from the School of Education’s Dean’s office.