Mental health services bill aims to double funding


(From left to right) President Robert Nelsen; ASI President Melissa Bardo; Sam Alavi, director of Student Advocacy and Student Representation at UC Davis; Assemblymember Kevin McCarty; former Senator Darrell Steinberg; and Belinda Lum, assistant professor of sociology at Sacramento City College, get together to announce a new bill to increase funding for mental health services in The WELL at Sacramento State, Thursday, Feb. 25.

Jonathan Ayestas

Legislation for competitive grants to improve mental health services for the California State University, University of California and California Community College systems was introduced on Thursday in The WELL.

The 2 p.m. press conference went over the details for the College Mental Health Services Trust, which would involve the state matching each dollar a campus’s student health program spends on its services. The bill is backed by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty and former state Senator Darrell Steinberg.

“We spend literally millions of dollars on mental health — being able to get that as a matching fund and be able to double that — it’s a no-brainer,” said Robert Nelsen, Sac State president.

McCarty said he does not yet know the exact cost of the legislation, but expects it to be up to $10 million.

“The stigma is diminishing but it’s still there,” McCarty said. “A forgotten segment of this issue has been college campuses. It’s stressful to go to college — a lot of anxiety, sometimes depression, so kids certainly need mental health services every now and then to really complete college.”

Sam Alavi, director of Student Advocacy and Student Representation at UC Davis, said she hopes that if the legislation passes, her campus would be able to model their mental health services to be similar to Sac State’s.

One of the aspects she aims to bring back to UC Davis is a 24-hour walk-in policy for students.

“We have a lot to learn from Sac State,” Alavi said. “Our biggest issue is our student-to-counselor ratio. We have a pretty diverse counseling service, but we need to do a lot more to make sure that students can find counselors that match their identities and can support them.”

Associated Students, Inc. President Melissa Bardo had personal experiences dealing with mental health working with Active Minds and other related organizations.

She said she expects the biggest challenge for the bill to be funding, but believes the benefits far outweigh the cost.

“A lot of legislatures and lawmakers in California realize that mental health crises need to be addressed, especially among our young student population,” Bardo said. “Students’ health is more important than profits.”