The Campus Care and Counseling Act--first proposed by APA in 2002 to improve mental health services to college students--was included in the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and passed the U.S. Senate in July. The legislation calls for $10 million in competitive grants to be distributed to college counseling centers, mental health clinics and psychology service centers to expand campus-based mental and behavioral health services for college students.
At Monitor press time, the bill had passed the Senate, and APA's Public Policy Office expected it to soon gain House of Representatives approval and, ultimately, be signed into law by President George W. Bush.
In particular, the bill will allocate grants for campus mental health centers to help with prevention of and early intervention with behavioral and mental health problems such as depression, eating disorders and substance abuse.
As such, the act provides funds to psychology training clinics and college counseling centers, which house more APA-accredited internship programs than any other type of internship setting, notes Cynthia Belar, PhD, APA's executive director for education.
"The act provides funding to hire practitioners, conduct outcomes research and support interns," she says. "Moreover, it explicitly recognizes the importance of behavioral as well as mental health to success in college, which given the importance of higher education to our knowledge society, is indeed in the public interest."
In garnering support for the bill, APA members and officials cited studies that show an increase in the past decade in the number of college students reporting depression, stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, excessive drinking, drug abuse and feelings of hopelessness. Hundreds of APA members helped advocate for the bill--from getting it introduced to Congress to gaining co-sponsors, says Jennifer Smulson, APA's senior legislative and federal affairs officer.
The legislation, which has obtained widespread bipartisan support, provides a critical recognition of the mental and behavioral health needs of the nation's youth, says Nina Levitt, EdD, APA's director of education policy.