How CCAC addresses mental health needs of its students

Following PublicSource’s reporting about the high demand for mental health counseling on Pittsburgh’s college campuses, some readers have asked how the Community College of Allegheny County [CCAC] handles on-campus mental health counseling.

The short answer: It helps students deal with mental health issues in a limited manner.

CCAC is a two-year, nonprofit community college with more than 43,000 students across four campuses.

“The Counselors at CCAC (total of 12; three per campus) provide crisis intervention rather than mental health counseling,” wrote CCAC promotions writer Margaret Anderson in an email. “Once a crisis has abated, the student is referred on to a mental health service in the community or to their community-based treatment source, if they are already in treatment.”

The counselors at CCAC mainly act as standard guidance counselors, helping students find jobs, prepare for classes and strategize transfers to other schools. They also offer “personal counseling,” which, according to Anderson, “may, at times, involve mental health issues.” These services come at no additional charge for students.

Out of the 12 counselors at CCAC, some are licensed, but they do not necessarily work at the college in that capacity.

“Two of the counselors are licensed professionals, but are not employed as such by the college,” Anderson wrote. “Both maintain small private practices, apart from the college and separate from the student body.”

CCAC does not impose a session limit, though typically students do not attend more than once a week. Students rarely wait more than a day for counseling. “Even students under outside care often check in with our counselors as an additional support on campus,” Anderson wrote.

The college makes efforts to inform students of counseling services and to discuss troubling issues that may affect them.

“We provide workshops to address topics that may be of interest, such as depression, test anxiety, alcohol abuse, opioid addiction,” Anderson wrote. “Counseling posters are placed about the college; counselors may be invited to do brief classroom presentations.”

Correction (12/15/2017): A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized the financial status and number of campuses of the Community College of Allegheny County. It is a nonprofit with four campuses.

Matt Petras is a senior journalism major at Point Park University and a PublicSource intern. He can be reached at matt@publicsource.org and on Twitter @mattApetras.

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