Decline in students’ mental health leads to $40 million proposal

A new bill was proposed in February which aims to increase funding for mental health in California Community College, University of California, and California State University systems.

On February 16, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty introduced Assembly Bill 17, which would establish a trust account and fund $40 million to mental health services. If AB 2017 is passed, mental health funding will double for public community colleges, state colleges, and universities.

McCarty announced AB 2017 on February 16 at an event at Sacramento State University. He emphasized how reports show mental health is increasingly a challenge, and too often there is not an adequate number of professionals to deal with the issue.

“Mental health is a significant need,” McCarty said. “This is an important measure which will have a strong impact in increasing access to mental health services throughout our campuses for students.”

According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), “the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s, and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students.”

Skyline College offers confidential individual counseling, psychological services, crisis intervention, and mental health assessments to support students in managing and identifying personal concerns.

Licensed marriage and family therapist, and Skyline College Psychological Services Counselor, Elizabeth Llamas provides students with a resource to address issues that arise during the course of their education.

“Psychological services and personal counseling is an integral part of our college’s community,” Llamas said. “Since I began in 2008 I have seen an increase in the number of students seen, and an increase in the number of students in crisis.”

“Many students, faculty, health practitioners, and college administrators are reporting increased rates of mental health needs by students attending public colleges in California,” as reported by the California Legislative Counsel’s Digest.

The director of student development at Skyline, Amory Cariadus, believes meeting the needs of students is the school’s highest priority.

“If this bill were to lead to additional funding for psychological services and personal counseling, we would welcome the opportunity to offer more services,” Cariadus said.

According to McCarty’s Assembly Bill 2017 fact sheet, the bill will establish the College Mental Health Services trust account of $40 million from the state’s mental health fund.

McCarty explains the money will come from existing sources. AB 2017 would create a state program and trust fund and use existing state dollars from the Proposition 63 Mental Health Services Act.

College students often deal with a variety of stressors and competing demands, all of which can contribute to emotional distress.

This past weekend on April 18, the University of California Students Association gathered students and legislators from across California for the UCSA Student Lobby Conference in Sacramento to advocate for and discuss ways in which mental health funding can be increased.

“It is imperative that we have these types of resources available for students to get assistance when these moments arise,” Llamas said. “I think expanding mental health services on school campuses is a step in the right direction and a positive step in destigmatizing mental health overall.”



Update: This article has been updated to correctly attribute sources.