Colleges are urged to use HEERF on mental health

The Department of Education on Thursday called on colleges to use the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) for on-campus mental health services. The announcement provided college administrators with an explanation that HEERF funds could be used to improve the necessary mental health services, which were not originally included in the HEERF Act.

“Mental health is a major concern we’ve heard from presidents,” said Jonathan Fansmith, assistant vice president of public relations for the American Council on Education. “It’s a very challenging environment for the organization, and it’s expensive to do these things. So the ability of the federal government to use some of the higher education relief funds provided for that purpose is very helpful. “

HEERF has provided $ 14 billion to colleges across the country as part of the CARE Act to meet the needs of emergency students during the epidemic. This guideline from the department not only indicates to college administrators that funding can be spent on mental health services but also gives examples of how colleges can implement programs, resources and services to address the growing rate of mental health struggles on college campuses. Covid 19 Worldwide.

The epidemic has left college students increasingly struggling with anxiety and depression, and college leaders have indicated that mental health is a top priority. Seventy-five percent of college presidents indicated that mental health was a top concern in the 2021 survey, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 75 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds experienced mental health symptoms in June 2020.

HEERF funding and mental health

The department provides a detailed outline of how HEERF money can be used to meet mental health needs on campus, including how colleges across the country have used HEERF to transform and expand their mental health care systems.

The Biden administration has made the following recommendations:

  • Expand and strengthen personal and remote mental health services, such as telehealth, to increase student, faculty and staff access to counselors and mental health professionals.
  • Establish new resources to connect students to essential care through 24-hour hotlines and innovative approaches such as mental health prevention and intervention training.
  • Create programs that will expand mental health awareness and resources on campus in the long run.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke Thursday at the University of California, Riverside, in which he said following a model of mental health services for other institutions of higher learning. Multiple student leaders at UC Riverside have described the campus mental health services they have seen succeed in addressing mental health concerns and believe the university can improve.

“The epidemic has left students of all ages with traumatic events ranging from losing loved ones to financial hardship to social isolation and learning disabilities,” Cardona said. “In discussions with students across the country, they were honest with me: they need better mental health care on campus.”

UC Riverside student leaders stressed that college students need a variety of mental health resources that can meet a variety of needs to choose from. This may include increasing financial support to connect students with peer groups, private counseling and therapy and mental health therapists. Students say services such as free transportation to campus counseling and mental health appointments without co-pay at UC Riverside have been successful.

Telemedicine, a resource college that could cover with HEERF, has been found to expand access to mental health care. TimelyMD, a telehealth provider serving more than one million students across 200 college campuses, found that since the epidemic, 70 percent of visits were for mental health, compared to 10 percent for pre-epidemic. In addition, 40 percent of mental health visits are after regular office hours.

A central theme of the conversation was to increase the diversity of mental health workers to reflect the diversity of the student population and to ensure that universities make students aware of the resources available to them.

“I think these conversations need to come back to culture, and it’s okay for a community to have these conversations,” said Mario Mendoza, a graduate peer health educator at UC Riverside.

UC Riverside students come from a range of both university and student-led organizations that promote students’ mental and physical well-being. They point out that while UC Riverside is a model for mental health care, more can be done and HEERF money can help tackle this.

Yuritza Escalante, an undergraduate from UC Riverside who works for a peer mentorship and mental health awareness organization called Active Minds, says it’s important to raise funds for adequate mental health training for all students, not just student leaders like myself. “Training is so limited – there are certain types of training that cost more than others,” he said.

According to Escalante, increased access to training will help more students prepare to meet their own and broader mental health needs on campus.

In addition to direct mental health services, students noted that it is important for the university to provide the necessary resources that address students’ basic needs, such as safe accommodation and food.

Finally, students say investing in long-term mental health care is important for the university.

“The next step in funding is to ensure that schools that do not talk about mental health are able to buy those resources, implement those resources, and implement programs that adequately meet the needs that students are now expressing more than ever before.” Escalante said.

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