LEGISLATION SUPPORT ADVISORY
For Immediate Release
June 25, 2018
Contact: Heather Schroeder
Support of Bill To Improve Access To Mental Health Services in Higher Education
On June 23, 2018 The Student Mental Health Policy Alliance voted to support a Senate Bill by Bob Casey(D PA) aimed toward improving access to mental health services for students at college campuses across America. The Higher Education Mental Health Commission Act would establish a national commission focused on mental health conditions facing students at colleges and universities across the country.
Between 2010 and 2015, enrollment in colleges and universities increased by only 5 percent, yet the number of students using mental health services increased by 30 to 40 percent. Students seeking help are increasingly likely to have attempted suicide or engaged in self-harm, the same study found. More than 50 percent of students between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having a severe psychological problem or experiencing feelings of hopelessness. This bill would help address the lack of resources to support students with mental health issues.
Highly publicized campus suicides and research showing an alarming prevalence of mental illness on campuses have heightened the sense of urgency. The reality of rampant mental illness on campus shatters the notion of college as a carefree time when the biggest worries are passing finals and finding a date. For many students, dark shadows shroud the sheltered nest of academe.
More than 40 percent of US students become so depressed during their four years in college that they have trouble functioning, while 15 percent suffer clinical depression, according to a 2004 survey of 47,202 students by the American College Health Association. Suicide remains the second-leading cause of death among college students, claiming about 1,100 lives a year.
“Today, campuses are plagued with an unprecedented demand for counseling services,” said Jacob Griffin, a former on-campus advocate—disturbed by campus administrators’ lack of responsiveness in addressing these issues; pivotal to student success and retention. “It is not uncommon for a university counseling center to have a 6 to 8 week wait…with mental health—symptoms intensify quickly,” Griffin continued.
Jacob launched a national non-profit in 2016 strategically focused on helping campus counseling centers address the influx by lobbying campus leaders to increase staffing and budgetary allotments. He has said that budgets in nearly 95% of Public University centers’ in the past 10 years have not changed to match increases in enrollment numbers, let alone the increases in demand. His research has found 7 out of 10 Campus Counseling Center Directors have resigned or retired within the last several years; citing lack of administrative support and over-extension of resources as key factors.
Specialists in the field have long known that the onset of mental illness often comes during adolescence or early adulthood. Living away from home, often for the first time, compounds stress and anxiety. So, too, does pressure to succeed in an increasingly competitive climate on campus.
As the stigma of having a diagnosed mental illness subsides, demand for counseling will presumably continue to rise. Criticizing Millennials as seemingly less resilient is the most popular diatribe, but it shouldn’t be, Griffin emphasized. In fact, it undermines a decade’s worth of work by counselors, psychologists, and student advocates who have strived to not only bring mental health to the forefront of discussion, but to reassure students that there is no shame in struggling—that experiencing mental distress is actually common and not a sign of weakness. “The distinct proof of concept and need,” Griffin said, “is what compels me to continue to advocate: the fact that I’ve had boots-on-the-ground experience…having witnessed and experienced the adversity has led me to continue bringing awareness to these issues” The result of normalizing mental health in higher education is that peers, faculty and bystanders, have intentionally led sufferers to the centers that promise to help them. “There is absolutely,” Griffin, “a lack of follow-through on that commitment.”
About The Student Mental Health Policy Alliance
A subsidiary of the 501c3 charity: Griffin Ambitions Limited, The nations leading voice on increasing campus mental health services too improve the lives of millions of Students affected by mental illness. We are committed to advocating for campus support, while reviewing and improving current trends in college mental health and highlighting promising practices that contribute to student success. We employ various strategic approaches too improve mental wellbeing on campuses. We take an active role in identifying initiatives consistent with our priorities, seeking out Higher Education Institutions’ that can advance these initiatives and work alongside administrators and stakeholders. We aim to effect change at grassroots and systemic levels. Since Founder Jacob Griffin’s mental health advocacy beyond his campus began in 2015, we have distinctly established ourselves through dedication, commitment and an unceasing belief in our mission to strengthen and improve how college Counseling Centers address their influx. Through our united support for education, advocacy and awareness efforts, the Student Mental Health Policy Alliance is at the forefront of increasing campus provisions, and is a distinctly recognized force in urging new ideas and solutions to improve educational outcomes.
2D SESSION S. 3106
To authorize the Secretary of Education to establish an Advisory Commission
on Serving and Supporting Students with Mental Health Disabilities
in Institutions of Higher Education, and for other purposes.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
JUNE 21, 2018
Mr. CASEY (for himself, Mr. KAINE, Mr. NELSON, Ms. HASSAN, Ms. SMITH,
Mr. BLUMENTHAL, and Ms. KLOBUCHAR) introduced the following bill;
which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions
To authorize the Secretary of Education to establish an
Advisory Commission on Serving and Supporting Students
with Mental Health Disabilities in Institutions of
Higher Education, and for other purposes.
1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa2
tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
3 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
4 This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Higher Education
5 Mental Health Act of 2018’’.
6 SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.
7 (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following:
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1 (1) More than 75 percent of mental health con2
ditions begin before the age of 24.
3 (2) More than 25 percent of students between
4 the ages of 18 and 24 reported a mental health con5
6 (3) More than 50 percent of students between
7 the ages of 18 and 24 reported having a severe psy8
9 (4) More than 50 percent of students between
10 the ages of 18 and 24 reported feelings of hopeless11
12 (5) Higher education counseling centers are de13
voting more time to rapid-response treatment with
14 more than 25 percent of students who sought help
15 reporting they had intentionally hurt themselves.
16 (6) Over a 5-year period, counseling center uti17
lization increased by an average of 30 to 40 percent,
18 while enrollment increased by only 5 percent, forcing
19 institutions to stretch mental health services to more
20 students without increasing resources.
21 (b) PURPOSES.—The purposes of this Act are the fol22
23 (1) To ensure States and institutions of higher
24 education are provided with accurate information on
25 the mental health concerns facing students.
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1 (2) To provide detailed recommendations that
2 institutions of higher education, States, and the
3 Federal Government can take to improve the mental
4 health services available to students and properly
5 treat the rising number of students with mental
6 health issues.
7 SEC. 3. ADVISORY COMMISSION ON SERVING AND SUP8
PORTING STUDENTS WITH MENTAL HEALTH
9 DISABILITIES IN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER
11 (a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Education shall
12 establish a commission to be known as the Advisory Com13
mission on Serving and Supporting Students with Mental
14 Health Disabilities in Institutions of Higher Education
15 (referred to in this section as the ‘‘Commission’’).
16 (b) MEMBERSHIP.—
17 (1) TOTAL NUMBER OF MEMBERS.—The Com18
mission shall include not more than 19 members,
19 who shall be appointed by the Secretary of Edu20
cation in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3).
21 (2) MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION.—The
22 Commission shall include 1 representative from each
23 of the following:
24 (A) The Office of Postsecondary Education
25 of the Department of Education.
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1 (B) The Office of Special Education and
2 Rehabilitation Services of the Department of
4 (C) The Office of Civil Rights of the De5
partment of Education.
6 (D) The Office of Civil Rights of the De7
partment of Justice.
8 (E) The National Council on Disability.
9 (F) A membership association for adminis10
trative and personnel professionals focused on
11 creating an inclusive higher education environ12
ment for individuals with disabilities, as deter13
mined by the Secretary.
14 (G) An organization that represents the
15 Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with
16 Mental Illness program, as determined by the
18 (H) An organization operated by and rep19
resenting secondary and postsecondary edu20
cation students with mental health disabilities
21 advocating for mental health services and sui22
cide prevention, as determined by the Secretary.
23 (3) ADDITIONAL MEMBERS OF THE COMMIS24
SION.—In addition to the members included under
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1 paragraph (2), the Commission shall include the fol2
3 (A) Four members from leadership of in4
stitutions of higher education who have dem5
onstrated experience in successfully supporting
6 the retention and graduation of students with
7 mental health disabilities. With respect to such
8 4 members, 1 member shall be a staff member
9 of a 2-year degree-granting institution of higher
10 education, 1 member shall be a staff member
11 from a 4-year degree granting institution of
12 higher education, 1 member shall be a member
13 of campus law enforcement, and 1 member
14 shall serve as a general counsel. Such 4 mem15
bers shall represent institutions of differing
17 (B) Three members from family members
18 of individuals who are—
19 (i) enrolled in an institution of higher
20 education on the date such family member
21 is appointed to the Commission; or
22 (ii) former students with a mental
23 health disability.
24 (C) Four members from individuals with
25 mental health disabilities, including not less
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1 than 2 individuals enrolled in an institution of
2 higher education on the date of appointment to
3 the Commission. Any remaining member shall
4 be an individual with a mental health disability
5 who has attended an institution of higher edu6
7 (4) TIMING.—The Secretary of Education shall
8 establish the Commission and appoint the members
9 of the Commission not later than 60 days after the
10 date of enactment of this Act.
11 (c) CHAIRPERSON AND VICE CHAIRPERSON.—The
12 Commission shall select a chairperson and vice chair13
person from among the members of the Commission. Ei14
ther the chairperson or the vice chairperson shall be a stu15
dent or former student with a mental health disability.
16 (d) MEETINGS.—
17 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Commission shall meet
18 at the call of the chairperson, but not more often
19 than 8 times.
20 (2) FIRST MEETING.—Not later than 60 days
21 after the appointment of the members of the Com22
mission under subsection (b), the Commission shall
23 hold the Commission’s first meeting.
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1 (e) DUTIES.—The Commission shall conduct a study
2 and prepare a report for the Secretary of Education that
3 includes the following:
4 (1) Findings from stakeholders, including
5 through solicitation of public testimony, related to
6 the challenges faced by students with mental health
7 disabilities in institutions of higher education, in8
9 (A) the services available to students with
10 mental health disabilities in institutions of high11
er education and their effectiveness in sup12
porting these students;
13 (B) the impact of policies and procedures
14 that help or hinder the goal of providing equal
15 opportunity for students with mental health dis16
abilities, such as reasonable accommodation
17 policies, mandatory and voluntary leave policies,
18 and disciplinary policies;
19 (C) the use of protected health information
20 of students with mental health disabilities by
21 institutions of higher education, including the
22 extent to which campus-based mental health
23 providers share this information with college or
24 university officials without student consent; and
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1 (D) the impact of providing mental health
2 services on a student’s academic performance,
3 well-being, and ability to complete college.
4 (2) Conclusions on the major challenges facing
5 students with mental health disabilities in institu6
tions of higher education.
7 (3) Recommendations to improve the overall
8 education, and retention and graduation, of students
9 with mental health disabilities in institutions of
10 higher education, with the goal of helping these stu11
dents access educational opportunities equal to those
12 of their non-disabled peers.
13 (f) COMMISSION PERSONNEL MATTERS.—
14 (1) TRAVEL EXPENSES.—The members of the
15 Commission shall not receive compensation for the
16 performance of services for the Commission, but
17 shall be allowed reasonable travel expenses, including
18 per diem in lieu of subsistence, at rates authorized
19 for employees of agencies under subchapter I of
20 chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code, while
21 away from their homes or regular places of business
22 in the performance of services for the Commission.
23 Notwithstanding section 1342 of title 31, United
24 States Code, the Secretary of Education may accept
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1 the voluntary and uncompensated services of mem2
bers of the Commission.
3 (2) STAFF.—The Secretary of Education may
4 designate such personnel as may be necessary to en5
able the Commission to perform its duties.
6 (3) DETAIL OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES.—
7 Any Federal Government employee, with the ap8
proval of the head of the appropriate Federal agen9
cy, may be detailed to the Commission without reim10
bursement, and such detail shall be without inter11
ruption of loss of civil service status or privilege.
12 (4) FACILITIES, EQUIPMENT, AND SERVICES.—
13 The Secretary of Education shall make available to
14 the Commission, under such arrangements as may
15 be appropriate, necessary equipment, supplies, and
17 (g) REPORTS.—
18 (1) INTERIM AND FINAL REPORTS.—The Com19
mission shall prepare and submit to the Secretary of
20 Education, as well as the Committee on Health,
21 Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate and
22 the Committee on Education and the Workforce of
23 the House of Representatives—
24 (A) an interim report that summarizes the
25 progress of the Commission, along with any in-
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1 terim findings, conclusions, and recommenda2
tion as described in subsection (e); and
3 (B) a final report that states final find4
ings, conclusions, and recommendations as de5
scribed in subsection (e).
6 (2) PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION.—The re7
ports described in paragraph (1) shall be prepared
8 and submitted—
9 (A) in the case of the interim report, not
10 later than 1 year after the date on which all the
11 members of the Commission are appointed; and
12 (B) in the case of the final report, not
13 later than 2 years after the date on which all
14 the members of the Commission are appointed.
15 (h) TERMINATION.—The Commission shall terminate
16 on the day after the date on which the Commission sub17
mits the final report under subsection (g).
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