Durbin/Collins and Schakowsky Introduce Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act - March 2009
Mental and Behavioral Health Services on College Campuses
Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act
(S.682 / H.R. 1704)
The Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act (S. 683/H.R. 1704) was introduced in the Senate on March 24th by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and in the House on March 25th by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Current Senate co-sponsors include: Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI),Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Current House co-sponsors include: Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Joe Sestak (D-PA), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bill Foster (D-IL). Both bills (S. 682 and H.R. 1704) have been formally endorsed by the APA, which has lent its strong support through the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) and the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA).
The Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act authorizes a new grant program designed to increase access to mental and behavioral health services, foster the prevention of mental health disorders, reduce stigma and improve treatment, collaboration and outreach for students on college campuses. Funds under this new program may be used for providing mental and behavioral health services on campuses; making available outreach services; and educating families, peers, faculty, staff and communities to increase awareness of and need for college mental health services. Funds may also be used to support student groups on campus; employ appropriately trained staff; expand mental health training opportunities through internship, post-doctorate and residency programs; develop and support evidence based practices; and evaluate and disseminate best practices. In addition, the bill seeks to increase access to and reduce stigma associated with mental health services by creating a National Public Education Campaign focused on mental and behavioral health on college campuses, as well as a College Campus Task Force, thereby establishing a high level forum to discuss this critical issue. Finally, this important legislation will complement the Campus Suicide Prevention program authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004, which supports outreach but does not provide for direct services.
Why is this legislation important?
APA has long advocated for a federal focus on mental and behavioral health issues at the post-secondary level. Beginning in 2004 with the introduction of the Campus Care and Counseling Act (S. 3593 /H.R. 2215- 108th Congress), APA members have identified a need and, using compelling data and research, have raised awareness about the consequences of not addressing the mental and behavioral health needs on college campuses. In fact APA was heavily involved in the creation of the Campus Suicide Prevention program, along with the rest of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act programs, and has continually pressed Congress to make sure that funds available to college counseling center be available for the most pressing needs that those centers face: capacity, prevention and direct services. The most recent survey of college counseling center directors found that 67.3% of college counseling center directors surveyed reported an increase in crisis counseling; 66.5% reported finding referral sources for students needing long-term help and 59.5% reported a growing demand for services with no increase in resources. The survey further noted that “…95% of directors report that the recent trend toward greater number of students with severe psychological problems continues to be true on their campuses. The pressure on counselors to manage this increasingly complex case load has led to various concerns: 64.2% shortages during peak times; 62% decreased focus on students with normal developmental concerns; 33.5% need to end too many cases prematurely.” (2008 National Survey of College Counseling Center Directors, American College Counseling Association, International Association of Counseling Services, Inc.)