Dwindling student services funding and a deeply ingrained stigma against people suffering from psychological disorders have contributed to colleges’ lack of preparedness in serving students with mental health needs. And although the recently adopted Student Success Task Force Recommendations emphasize the critical need for strengthened support services, a legislative commitment for funding of these services remains elusive. As a result, the number of grant applications is on the rise as many of us are seeking funding alternatives just to help existing programs stay afloat. However, there is good news: this year colleges will have the opportunity to apply for grant monies to strengthen mental health services on their campuses, and all 112 colleges will benefit from a statewide grant project targeting students with mental health needs.
The passage of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, (MHSA), in November 2004 provided an opportunity to transform the public mental health system in California by addressing a broad continuum of prevention, early intervention, treatment, and infrastructure support to Californians suffering from mental illness. In addition to the funding available to county mental health departments, MHSA provides resources to other state entities to enhance their capacity to support the overarching goals of MHSA and its various components. The California Community College Chancellor’s Office is one of six state agencies that received funding to support implementation of the MHSA. The MHSA components are community services and support, prevention and early intervention (PEI), workforce education and training, innovation, and capital facilities and technological needs.
While counties at the local level best provide direct services, the Oversight and Accountability Commission ultimately determined that some strategic MHSA initiatives would be best implemented in a coordinated fashion statewide. To most effectively and efficiently implement these programs -- particularly the three prevention and early intervention initiatives -- six California counties formed the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), a joint powers authority that now includes more than 40 counties representing nearly 90% of the California population.
In 2011, CalMHSA approved funding to support statewide student mental health efforts. Three Student Mental Health Initiative grants were awarded to CSU, UC, and California Community Colleges, with K-12 receiving two grants. California Community Colleges received $6.9 million and created a joint venture between the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC) called The California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program (CCSMHP).
Funding for the CCSMHP is from the prevention and early intervention (PEI) component of MHSA, and thus programs and strategies developed with grant monies need to reflect PEI guidelines. These guidelines are as follows:
- Community collaboration
- Cultural competence
- Client/family-driven mental health system for children, transition age youth, adults, older adults
- Family-driven system of care for children and youth
- Wellness focus, including recovery and resilience
- Integrated mental health system service experiences and interaction
The community college SMHP has four major components: training and technical assistance, online suicide prevention gatekeeper training, campus-based grants, and evaluation. Outcomes for the CCSMHP include supporting all 112 campuses in implementation and sustainability of PEI strategies that allow campuses to address the mental health needs of the overall student population in general and student veterans in particular and to promote sustainable collaborative infrastructures between campuses and local mental health service systems.
Training and Technical Assistance (TTA)
Objectives for TTA are to provide direct expert mental health (PEI) consultation, including offering 18 regional trainings, spread out over three academic years, as well as campus specific trainings (in person and on-line) primarily for campus faculty, staff, and students. The TTA module also allows for collaboration with UC and CSU partners. The Chancellor’s Office intends to release the Request for Proposals no later than the first quarter of 2012. Any public, private, or non-profit corporation able to fulfill the requirements of the contract will be eligible.
Online Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training for Faculty & Staff (SPOT)
SPOT focuses on implementing a capacity building plan for system-wide suicide prevention training. The plan will include outreach strategies, steps to incentivize participation in training, methods for embedding online gatekeeper training, and evaluation of rate of use by colleges. A successful contractor will provide both system-wide and individual college technical support, administer a system-wide online training program available to all colleges, and consult with individual colleges to develop a sustainability plan for development and implementation of online suicide prevention training. As is the case for training and technical assistance, the Chancellor’s Office intends to release the Request for Proposals no later than the first quarter of 2012, and any public, private, or non-profit corporation able to fulfill the requirements of the contract will be eligible.
Twelve $255,000 Campus Grants will be available for individual colleges through a Request for Application process. Proposals must include how the college intends to address prevention and early intervention (PEI) infrastructure development, demonstrate the ability to leverage existing college mental health and/or student health resources to bolster PEI initiatives, and propose a budget that does not supplant existing resources. Successful grantees will also provide evidence of established community partnerships with County Mental Health, community mental health organizations, CSU, UC, etc.
Grant applications will be reviewed with a focus on both geographic and population equity and must address three strategic areas: faculty and staff training, peer-to-peer resources, and suicide prevention programming. Funding proposals must specifically identify how the college intends to approach these areas.
Student Mental Health Program Evaluation
Details on the evaluation component of the grant are yet to be made public, although comprehensive data collection and an outcomes-based evaluation process are expected.
For more information about mental health services in the California Community Colleges see http://www.cccco.edu/ChancellorsOffice/Divisions/StudentServicesandSpecialPrograms/MentalHealthServices/tabid/1600/Default.aspx.