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Health Network changes services for emotional support animals

The Colorado State University Health Network is making changes to the scope of services offered around emotional support animals due to evolving guidance from professional counseling organizations, according to the CSU Health Network website.

The American Counseling Association recommends only counselors with special training should give a medical recommendation, according to a statement made by the CSU Health Network.

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According to the statement, current recommendations advise that counselors should not engage in writing letters of support and referral for clients seeking an ESA unless the counselor has specialized training and experience in working with human-animal bond in counseling.

The changes in guidance provided by the ACA will make it more difficult for people seeking accommodation to find a professional.

According to the CSU Health Network statement, the Health Network no longer provides letters of support and referral for students seeking ESAs and psychiatric service dogs.

The changes made to the services offered by the CSU Health Network will not affect the processes required to register an ESA on campus, wrote Kate Hagdorn, associate director of communications for the CSU Health Network, in an email to The Collegian.

Currently, it is the Student Disability Center that makes approvals for ESAs requested by students who live on campus and are unemployed, said Kathleen Ivy, a representative of the SDC at CSU.

The SDC makes judgments based on the recommendations of mental healthcare professionals and has a list of questions that must be answered to move forward with the approval.

“The request process of an ESA requires a medical professional to weigh in on the need,” Ivy said.

In the past, it was possible for the medical professionals present at the CSU Health Network to offer a recommendation to students, but due to the recent changes in policy, students must receive the recommendation from an outside professional.

While the SDC reviews all paperwork requests, the minimum requirements for ESA registrations were determined by multiple departments. After professional recommendations are approved, a student looking to register an ESA must meet with the residence director of his or her dorm or the building manager of his or her apartment, Ivy said.

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“There is a list of questions that need to be answered that we came up with as a University,” Ivy said.

These questions range beyond the health history of the individual and span into his or her future plans for housing and making sure that the individual is directing his or her request through the correct channels.

“The purpose for an ESA is to allow a person to have a positive impact on their disability, make them more independent and allow them to function better,”  Ivy said. “That is a goal of everything we do at the Student Disability Center.”

Corbin Reiter can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @CorbinReiter.

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