CFA’s 2019 legislation to include bill for more campus mental health counselors

It’s time to introduce 2019 bills for consideration by the California State Legislature, and CFA is working with State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician, to reintroduce the Mental Health Counselors Act to improve care on the campuses.

It would require the CSU and community colleges to live up to the minimum recommended staffing of at least one mental health counselor for every 1500 students.

“With the shortage of counselors on CSU campuses, it has become common for students to face long wait times to get appointments, and frankly that is not good enough,” says Martha Cuan, a counselor at CSU Stanislaus who chairs the CFA Counselors Committee. “We know that students are more successful in their studies when there is help to cope with the pressures of work, school and family that can lead to anxiety and depression.”

Students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, students who are first in their family   to attend college, so many of the students who the CSU is dedicated to serve, confront racist and discriminatory pressures in our country as well as in daily life. It is essential that CSU students have timely access to mental health counseling to help them stay on course and get their college degrees.

The bill also would require the CSU to provide public data about suicides on campuses, and to conduct a mental health survey of each campus every three years.

A similar law passed the state legislature last year with that all-too-rare bipartisan support, but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown who said this should be accomplished through the regular budget process. This time, CFA and Dr. Pan will press for the needed funding in the state budget.

Meantime, CSU campuses remain dangerously short of mental health counselors, relying on emergency temporary hires and moving counselors from campus-to-campus in crises.

The Mental Health Counselors Act is one of several bills that will comprise CFA’s 2019 Legislative Agenda. Watch future CFA Headlines and the CFA web site to learn more as the bills develop.

CFA takes positions on bills like this after a process in which CFA members submit ideas, and the CFA Political Action and Legislation Committee along with campus CFA PA-Leg chairs review them. Finally, the CFA Board of Directors votes on positions on bills based on the committee’s recommendations.

During March, members of CFA campus chapters will organize visits to their local California State Assembly members and Senators to discuss legislation as well as the CSU funding proposed to be included in the state budget by Gov. Gavin Newsom. If you are interested in these “in-district” visits, contact your campus CFA Chapter.