On Thursday, the California State Assembly passed a bill increasing funding allocated to mental health services at college campuses.
The bill, known as AB 2017, will designate $40 million to the College Mental Health Services Trust account over the course of five years starting in 2017, if successfully passed by the state Senate and the governor in August. The bill will present grants every year to various California community colleges, state universities and University of California campuses, along with monetary conferment, technical assistance and guidance.
The College Mental Health Services Trust account will be created under the Early Intervention Program. The Early Intervention Program, aimed at mitigating mental health issues, was formed in 2005 under Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act.
Proposition 63 is funded through a 1 percent tax on personal incomes above $1 million, and about $350 million is currently in the Early Intervention Program. In the past, the proposition invested in campuses but has run out of college-specific funding in recent years.
“If we can intervene on a first break, we can dramatically increase the likelihood that a young person can lead a productive life without psychiatric services,” said Anna Hasselblad, director of public policy at the Steinberg Institute.
The Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit that aims to promote public policies addressing mental health issues, created and began working on the idea for the bill last fall. The institute worked with Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty and Lorena Gonzalez to pass and potentially sign the bill into law.
The grant applications will be evaluated and administered by the Department of Health Care Services and the California Mental Health Services Authority to ensure that money is allocated appropriately. The types of funds will differ for each campus based on needs — some campuses will receive greater internal development of existing services while others will use the grant resources for creating and fostering community partnerships.
“There’s a lack of resource accessibility — people (often don’t know) where to go and how to seek health care,” said Deepika Dilip, co-chair of the Mental Health Coalition at UC Berkeley. “There are long wait lines … and counselors are overbooked. (It’s) a funding issue.”
The Tang Center, UC Berkeley’s health service center, provides a variety of mental health services to students, with trained counselors and satellite locations throughout Berkeley. Additionally, past CalSOs have had 10-minute wellness components and the Tang Center has expanded hours and included an after-hour line.
Campus faculty and students, however, believe that there are still large issues that UC Berkeley and the nation as a whole face regarding mental health services. Hasselblad said in an email that mental illness affects nearly three million public college students in California, and 750,000 students are suffering from depression, anxiety, psychosis or other mental health conditions at any given moment.
“We know that late adolescence has unique challenges that often lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, which can impact a young person’s mental health,” said McCarty in a statement. “As a society we have often neglected the most obvious place for student to turn — their existing health facilities on campus.”
Contact Lillian Dong at [email protected].