Point Park’s counseling director is resigning over conflict with university on staffing shortage

Point Park University's director of counseling services has opened up about her resignation to PublicSource, saying that she felt ethically uncomfortable working for an institution that was not directing what she described as necessary resources to a department that can make a life-or-death difference for students.

Taffie Bucci, who is currently the only licensed counselor on staff at Point Park, will be leaving her position as director in February. Bucci spoke with PublicSource for a Dec. 11 story about mental health services provided to students on campus. She said Point Park students who sought counseling were facing wait times of two to three weeks.

Taffie Bucci is Point Park University’s director of counseling. (Photo courtesy of Taffie Bucci)

After the story’s publication, Bucci reached out to PublicSource to clarify why she is resigning. “I am leaving because I have asked for additional staff, even one part-time person, since January 2016,” Bucci wrote in an email to PublicSource. She was repeatedly told no.

Bucci said that this semester she told a member of the Student Affairs administration that the strain on campus counseling was “becoming critical.” Bucci said this person, who she did not name, told her that all departments are understaffed.

“My response was that there was not another department where being understaffed could be a matter of life or death,” she wrote. “When asked what I might do if the situation was not addressed, my response was that I would consider leaving…”

PublicSource provided a summation of Bucci’s reasoning to Lou Corsaro, a university spokesman. He emailed the following statement:

“Point Park’s first commitment always will be to our students. In an effort to better serve those in need of counseling, the University’s Department of Mental Health & Counseling is expanding its services by partnering with the Psy.D. program. That enhancement includes the building of a new clinic. We are immensely proud of the results, and are deeply grateful to the staff, faculty and students from our doctoral program who are running it.”

As part of the partnership with the Psy.D. program in clinical-community psychology, Bucci said the university employs two doctoral students and 10 practicum students in training. The two doctoral students and five of the practicum students are able to see students; the other five students, Bucci said, provide administrative services, like answering emails, entering student data and acting as receptionists.

While Bucci values the contributions of the student trainees, she said the program does not adequately address the needs of the counseling department and the students who attempt to access mental health services. The trainees, she said, are only able to see a certain number of students, and, therefore, they only take a few dozen students off of Bucci's plate. Hundreds of students seek counseling services over the course of a semester, Bucci said.

Further, the student trainees must be supervised by someone who is licensed and they can’t officially diagnose students.

The Psy.D. partnership, which resulted in the formation of a clinic, occurred at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. Bucci reported wait times of two or three weeks to PublicSource in late October.

Corsaro also provided PublicSource with a statement on Nov. 17 from Dean of Students Keith Paylo regarding Bucci’s resignation.

“The University is grateful for Taffie’s expertise, guidance and diligence in helping us broaden the mental health services we provide to our students. We will begin a lengthy hiring process to find the right person to continue the development of the Mental Health and Counseling Department, in cooperation with the team of experts from our Psy.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology program.”

Paylo stands by the statement, according to Corsaro.

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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