On Sunday, the Associated Students’ Board of Directors reaffirmed its commitment to mental health issues by passing a two-pronged platform designed to encourage administrative and legislative action on a serious problem facing the college-age population.
Our approach in the 2017-18 academic year reflects the successes of the 2016-17 academic year while incorporating some of the feedback and concerns we heard from students, administrators, lawmakers, and counseling directors since we introduced the platform for the first time last year.
Standards for Counseling Services in Statute — House Bill 920, which nearly passed last session, has been revised to reduce redundancy and ensure minimal—or no—state appropriation requirement. This makes the legislation increasingly viable in the current political context. The bill would establish the Coordinating Board for Mental Health Issues in Higher Education, which would be tasked with establishing standards relating to average wait time for an initial visit to see a mental health professional, average number of sessions available before being referred off-campus, and types of prevention and training programs offered on-campus.
Task Force on Mental Health Issues in Higher Education — One major concern we heard during the 2016-17 academic year was that the regulatory mechanism established by HB 920 was too rigid. A more collaborative approach would be better. ASUM agrees that it would be preferable to address shortages of mental health services by successfully encouraging universities to address these issues voluntarily, as opposed to meeting standards as a matter of compliance. The Task Force on Mental Health Issues in Higher Education has been convened by ASUM, and has already received commitments from several top officials in the mental health and higher education professions, including the Commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education, the Deputy Director of the Department of Mental Health, and the chairs of the House Higher Education and Health and Mental Health policy committees. This group will review existing standards, make recommendations, and encourage collective action from university presidents.
By adopting both an administrative and legislative approach, we believe we can encourage voluntary collective action while reserving the right to accomplish our goals via a legislative approach, if necessary. We look forward to working with students, faculty, administrators, counseling directors, and lawmakers as we solidify our efforts in the run-up to the 2018 Legislative Session.