NIU budgets to hire more mental health counselors


Summer Fitzgerald

Counseling and Consultation Services is located in Campus Life 200.

DeKALB – In a December 2021 Board of Trustees meeting, NIU’s top administration pledged to invest in social support services during the FY23 year. These investments include an expansion of telehealth services and additional members of the university’s counseling staff.

The Board of Trustees meeting report specifies that some of the services to be expanded are telehealth services and that 10 additional mental health counselors are to be hired. 

However, according to Tim Paquette, the director for Counseling and Consultation Services, NIU’s current mental health services have already been approved by university administration to expand their services by a total of four more mental health professionals. In a December 2020 meeting, the university budgeted for 10 more counselors in FY22, according to a 2020 BOT report

Currently, Counseling and Consultation Services have 11 full-time licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists, counselors, social workers and intern and extern counselors. There are also four part-time mental health professionals on staff.

“If we have more staff, we’re going to be able to meet the need for more mental health needs that students have,” Paqutte said.

In general, there has been an overall increase in the demand for mental health services since the beginning of the pandemic, especially for depression and anxiety disorders.

“The pandemic has magnified these concerns for people,” Paquette said. 

However, Counseling and Consultation Services have not seen a noticeable increase in demand for their services. 

“We haven’t seen a significant increase in the demand for services,” Paquette said. “However, what we have seen is increased awareness about mental health and mental health support,” Paquette said. 

Even if the demand for mental health services is not currently there, the state of Illinois still has requirements and recommendations for services offered on university campuses. 

The requirements and recommendations, described in the Mental Health Early Action On Campus Act now suggest that university campuses should have “no less than one clinical, non-student staff member to 1,250 students.”

The standard ratio falls between one counselor for every 1000 to 1,500 students, but most universities don’t have the resources to comply. 

“We are close to meeting that ratio (but) we don’t quite meet it,” Paquette said. “We’re at about one to 1600, including all of our staff.” 

The report also mentions the need to expand telehealth options for students. Counseling and Consultation Services have provided tele-counseling as an option for students since 2020.

“Tele-counseling is something we had to do because of the pandemic, but now it will always be a service we provide going forward,” Paquette said.

However, as campus COVID-19 restrictions ease, more and more students opt for in-person mental health care.   

“Since August 2021, we’ve seen the majority of students requesting in-person counseling,” Paquette said. 

Counseling and Consultation Services currently provides a variety of mental health resources. Students can schedule an appointment through the Counseling and Consultation Services website or by calling 815-753-1206.