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CAPS appointments will now be conducted through a confidential video-chat platform or by phone. Credit: Samantha Turner

As Penn's classes transition online for the remainder of the semester, so too will Counseling and Psychological Services' appointments.

CAPS standing and drop-in appointments will shift to confidential video-chats or phone calls, depending on student preference, for the remainder of the semester due to the coronavirus outbreak.

CAPS Senior Clinical Director Michal Saraf said the transition to online platforms is “in progress” and in an effort to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations on social distancing. Saraf said CAPS will still have on-campus clinicians for students who remain local but "heavily suggest" that all students use the remote appointment system.

According to the CAPS website, CAPS will offer in-person services from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until March 31, excluding Saturdays, and will re-evaluate the situation as the end of the month approaches. Students can reach a clinician 24 hours seven days a week by dialing 215-898-7021 and pressing one.

Saraf said students who are current CAPS clients will receive an email from their personal clinician to discuss next steps. Standing appointments and drop-in hours will both remain at the same times, and students will also be able to receive evaluations for medication and prescription needs through virtual appointment, Saraf added.

CAPS will also update its website with online tools, including stress management techniques and coping mechanisms to further assist students in wake of Penn’s decision to evacuate campus and move all classes online for the rest of the semester to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Saraf said. 

“For some people, this leads to a feeling of displacement,” Saraf said. “For some, there are feelings of loss, particularly for seniors. For some people, decisions around going home can present big challenges. So we are prepared to offer tools to the community — and also connect with individuals and their specific needs.”

CAPS Associate Director of Outreach and Prevention Services Batsirai Bvunzawabaya is leading the effort to convert the division's program, which covers topics such as suicide prevention and mindfulness through trainings and workshops, to the virtual domain, Saraf said.

Saraf added that CAPS is temporarily suspending the Let’s Talk program, as most students are not on campus and public health experts recommend social distancing. CAPS will re-evaluate how to proceed with the program at the end of the month, Saraf said. The program had just undergone an expansion which added four clinicians and three locations to the program.

The future of CAPS group therapy sessions for the remainder of the semester is still undecided, Saraf said.

“We are aware of what a huge challenge this is to everyone and we are committed to being there for students and the University community and we will continue to respond flexibly as the situation develops,” Saraf said.

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