Governor Gary Herbert signed HCR 16, Concurrent Resolution Declaring Mental Health Issues To Be A Public Health Crisis At Utah Higher Education Institutions (Rep. Redd) on May 3. This resolution declares mental health issues to be a public health crisis at Utah higher education institutions and strongly urges Utah’s government and community groups to seek productive, long-term solutions to address the crisis. The resolution calls for a legislative report on the efforts of the task force in Fall 2017.
The resolution was first passed as a bill among the Utah State University Student Association in September 2016.
There’s been a marked increase in Utahns seeking mental health services in recent years. This increase is exacerbated by a shortage of mental health professionals in Utah, especially in rural areas, and difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified professionals. In fact, most states have serious shortage issues for mental health professionals.
Along with general statewide growth, there has been a surge in the need for student mental health services on Utah’s higher ed campuses. As Utah’s public colleges and universities continue to grow, they see more and more students seeking services. In fact, for every 1% increase in student enrollment, higher ed institutions see a 5% increase in students served in their counseling centers. It is a significant challenge for institutions to keep up with the demand for services, such that it is impacting students’ abilities to complete certificates and degrees.
What is USHE doing to address this problem?
The Mental Health Task Force, made up of members of the Board of Regents, chief student affairs officers, and representatives from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Mental Health Program, along with community partners and service providers, is actively working to find solutions to the ever-increasing mental health needs of Utah’s higher ed campuses.
Also, in the Board of Regents 2017 progress report on its ten-year strategic plan, it outlined that student safety and support is one of its highest priorities.