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Credit: Sam Holland

Penn will institute the position of a chief wellness officer, Penn President Amy Gutmann announced in an email to all Penn undergraduate students on April 24.

According to the email, the chief wellness officer will oversee a new department at Penn called "Student Wellness Services" that will include Counseling and Psychological Services, the Student Health Service, and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives. 

The email also announced a series of other changes Penn will be implementing to CAPS as a result of the CAPS operational review. Gutmann said that Penn aims to increase capacity at CAPS, decrease the time between a first CAPS consultation and a first counseling appointment, and optimize technology to make CAPS more accessible to students. Additionally, Penn hopes to better distinguish between short-term and long-term care options offered at CAPS, as well as additional wellness options.

"The overall goal of these measures will be to create faster access to care, for more students, across a wider range of options," Gutmann wrote in the email.

For several years, students have expressed concerns about the wait time to get an appointment at CAPS as well as the uncertainty regarding the type of care CAPS can offer students. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that students sometimes are not told that CAPS is intended to primarily be a short-term treatment facility until they are pushed to seek continued care off campus.

Released in March, data from a mental health survey administered by the Undergraduate Assembly said that Penn undergraduates hoped for more short-term options and wished for an "embed model," in which students could see CAPS clinicians designated for specific schools for walk-in appointments at buildings on campus rather than at the CAPS office on Market Street. 

In February, Director of Outreach and Prevention Services Meeta Kumar said that CAPS might not have the space to accommodate the new five full-time therapists who will be joining its staff.

In the email, Gutmann also mentioned that Penn has held a series of wellness campaigns this past year, including Campus Conversations, the newly revamped Take Your Professor to Lunch program, a Campaign for Wellness, and an operational review of CAPS.

"This year, we have seen a vibrantly energized culture of wellness at Penn," Gutmann said in an email.

Earlier this year, Penn announced long-time CAPS Executive Director Bill Alexander will be retiring in August. Gutmann announced in the email that the hiring of the new chief wellness officer is independent of the search for a new executive director. Both hiring processes will be finalized during the fall semester, according to the email.

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