Colleges invited to use HEERF on mental health
The Education Department on Thursday urged colleges to use the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) for on-campus mental health services. The announcement provides college administrators with clarification that HEERF funds can be used for needed improvements to mental health services, which were not originally included in HEERF legislation.
“Mental health is the number one concern of presidents,” said Jonathan Fansmith, assistant vice president of government relations for the American Council on Education. “It’s a very difficult environment for institutions, and these things are expensive. So the ability to use some of these higher education relief funds that the federal government has provided for these purposes is extremely helpful.
HEERF has provided $14 billion to colleges across the country under the CARES Act to meet the urgent needs of students during the pandemic. These department tips not only signal to college administrators that funding can be spent on mental health services, but also provide examples of programs, resources, and services that colleges can implement to address rising rates. of mental health issues on college campuses due to the impact of the covid19 pandemic.
College students are increasingly struggling with anxiety and depression in the wake of the pandemic, and college leaders have indicated that mental health is a top priority. Seventy-five percent of college presidents listed mental health as a top concern according to a 2021 survey, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 75 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they had had a mental health problem. symptom in June 2020.
HEERF Funding and Mental Health
The department provided a detailed overview of how HEERF money can be used to meet mental health needs on campus, which includes examples of how colleges across the country have used HEERF so far. now to modify and expand their mental health support systems.
The Biden administration made the following recommendations:
- Expand and strengthen in-person and remote mental health services, such as telehealth, to increase student, faculty, and staff access to mental health counselors and professionals.
- Establish new resources to connect students to needed care through innovative methods such as 24-hour helplines and mental health prevention and intervention trainings.
- Create programs that will expand mental health awareness and resources on campus over the long term.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke Thursday at the University of California, Riverside, which he said was a model of mental health services for other higher education institutions to follow. Several UC Riverside student leaders have described campus mental health services that they have seen succeed in addressing mental health issues and where they think the university can improve.
“The pandemic has exposed students of all ages to trauma, from loss of loved ones and financial hardship to social isolation and learning disruptions,” Cardona said. “In discussions with students across the country, they have been honest with me: they need better mental health resources on campus.
UC Riverside student leaders emphasized that students need a variety of mental health resources to choose from that can meet a range of needs. These could include peer groups, private counseling and therapy, and increased financial support to connect students with mental health therapists. Students said services such as on-campus counseling without co-pays and free transportation to mental health appointments have been successful at UC Riverside.
Telemedicine, noted as a resource colleges could cover with HEERF, has been shown to expand access to mental health care. TimelyMD, a telehealth provider serving more than one million students on 200 college campuses, found that since the pandemic, 70% of visits were about mental health, up from 10% before the pandemic. In addition, 40% of mental health visits took place after normal office hours.
A central theme of the conversation was to increase the diversity of the mental health workforce to reflect the diversity of the student population and to ensure that universities inform students of available resources.
“I think it’s about getting back to those conversations with culture, and it’s good for a community to have those conversations,” said Mario Mendoza, a graduate peer health educator at UC Riverside.
Students at UC Riverside came from a range of academic and student-run organizations that promote the mental and physical well-being of students. They noted that while UC Riverside is a model for mental health care, more work needs to be done, and HEERF money could help address this issue.
Yuritza Escalante, an undergraduate student at UC Riverside who works for a peer mentorship and mental health awareness organization called Active Minds, said increasing funding for proper health education is important. mental health for all students, not just student leaders like her. “Training is so limited – there are certain types of training that cost more than others,” she said.
Increased access to training, according to Escalante, would help more students prepare to meet mental health needs on their own and on campus in general.
In addition to direct mental health services, students noted that it is important for universities to provide resources that meet basic student needs, such as safe housing and food.
Finally, students said it is important for universities to make long-term investments in mental health services.
“The next step in funding is to ensure that all schools that don’t talk about mental health are able to purchase these resources, implement these resources, implement the programs necessary to adequately respond to these needs that students are expressing more than ever,” Escalante said.