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CAPS works to help out-of-state students ineligible for treatment in North Carolina

DTH Photo Illustration. Many out-of-state students have had to return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but are unable to access resources from Counseling and Psychological Services due to state limitations.

Ever since students were asked to leave campus earlier in the fall, many out-of-state students have had to return to their homes outside of North Carolina. 

But students outside of North Carolina who seek counseling from UNC's Counseling and Psychological Services have been unable to use its services — because CAPS counselors and psychiatrists only have the licensure to practice within the state.

While some states lifted teletherapy restrictions at the onset of COVID-19, most states require a health professional to be licensed in the state of the patient care, which can inhibit CAPS' ability to help UNC students.

CAPS Director Dr. Allen O’Barr said while CAPS cannot provide psychotherapy to students outside the state, referral coordinators can help students find a provider in their area. 

"What we're doing is finding out where they are, giving them the possibility of talking to one of our referral coordinators to help them," O'Barr said. 

O’Barr said the issue of state limits to licensure is widespread, and is something college counselors nationwide are working to combat. 

“I'm not able to do anything myself,” O’Barr said. “But I am able to be part of the organization that's working to do something around that.”

O’Barr also recommended some external resources that out-of-state students can take advantage of. One of those includes Psychology Today — an online, nationwide database of registered, mental health professionals. 

“You can plug into Psychology Today where you are and find all the therapists in your area and then if you need help with things like insurance or stuff like that, the referral coordinators that we have at CAPS can help with that,” he said. 

Maya Tadross, a sophomore psychology major at UNC, lives in New York. She said telemedicine doesn't work for everyone.

"I'm out of state myself, so I mean I know that if that was the only way I could get medication, it would be really difficult for me," Tadross said.

Besides CAPS, student organizations have their own initiatives to help their fellow students. 

Lauren Hobgood, a senior majoring in psychology and nursing, is a co-president of Active Minds — a club working to increase student awareness of mental health conditions.

With the move to virtual learning, Active Minds has been expanding its use of social media, creating posts where UNC students can anonymously share their mental health struggles.  

“I think it was just a great way to kind of raise awareness of the silent sufferers and see what's happening behind closed doors,” Hobgood said. “It got people to maybe even reflect on their own problems and issues and open up in a way that's a lot safer and that has a lot more privacy.”

Although out-of-state UNC students have experienced difficulties receiving certain services from CAPS, Hobgood said she still believes that CAPS can be a useful guide to any student who needs it. 

“I believe CAPS is just a fantastic stepping stone, and that what they're doing and the way that (they are) still able to refer and find help in long term care for people out of state is still such an important job,” she said.

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