News Release

Mental Health Crisis on CSU Campuses: Bill moves to Assembly
NEWS FROM THE CALIFORNIA FACULTY ASSOCIATION

  •  Few of the 23 CSU campuses meet the mental health counseling safe-staffing ratio, dangerously failing students
  • SB 968 would require at least one full-time mental health counselor for every 1,500 students
  • At State Assembly hearing, CSU Mental Health Counselors will speak in support of SB 968 (Pan) to address long-simmering crisis in student access to mental health help on CSU campuses.

 WHO: Testimony will include comments from:

  • Mimi Bommersbach, Chico State counselor and chair of California Faculty Association Counselors Committee
  • Susan Chen, San Francisco State counselor
  • State Senator Dr. Richard Pan

 (News please note: Counselors who attend the hearing in Sacramento will be available afterwards for comment. Please contact Niesha Fritz ‪916-281-8785 to schedule an interview.)

WHAT:  A State Assembly Education Committee hearing will take up Senate Bill 968, introduced by State Senator and Dr. Richard Pan, who is a pediatrician, and sponsored by CFA and SEIU.

WHEN/WHERE: June 19, 2018, 1:30 pm, Room 437

 BACKGROUND: SB 968: ‘Post-secondary Mental Health Counselors’ would help address the critical shortage of mental health counselors on the 23 California State University campuses that is impeding student access to needed help.

It passed the floor of the California State Senate on May 30 by a unanimous vote of 35-0. Now it is being considered by the California State Assembly.

“With data showing that 64 percent of those who drop out of college attribute it to mental illness and the number of students reporting depression and anxiety on the rise, we must do more meet the growing demand for student mental health services,” said Dr. Richard Pan. “Mental health services are woefully inadequate on our college campuses and SB 968 will give students the support they need to be successful in college and their career path.”

The law would require CSU management to ensure there is at least one full-time-equivalent mental health counselor for every 1,500 students on a CSU campus, which is the minimum industry standard. Yet, few of the CSU’s 23 campuses meet this standard ratio.

This is a crisis for California students at a time when anxiety among students is rising due to concerns over student debt and cost of living. The CSU’s own data shows about 10% of students are homeless and a large number of CSU students are self-supporting and/or supporting their families. The suicide of a CSU Chico student in March highlights the importance of getting students into consistent care.

To make matters worse, as long-time counselors retire or leave the CSU, management is replacing them with counselors hired on a temporary basis, and sometimes part-time, making it nearly impossible for students to see the same counselor over the years they are CSU students. 

“Worried, working, homeless and hungry students need emotional support if there is to be any hope that they will complete their degrees and contribute to California’s economy,” said counselor Mimi Bommersbach who chairs CFA’s Counselors Committee.  “Yet, the CSU campus counseling centers have long waiting lists for students to see counselors.”

She said, “The centers must triage students, leaving many hanging. This is a very serious problem and we commend Senator Pan for drawing attention to the issue and, better yet, for proposing a common-sense solution that the Legislature should fully support.”

SB 968 would require the CSU to report to the legislature by 2020 on its progress implementing the staffing. It calls for an update from the CSU every three years, and urges the UC administration to adopt the same policies.

Learn more about SB 968 here

See a Time magazine report on the crisis in mental health care on college campuses nationwide here.

For more information and to schedule interviews with CSU faculty members, please contact Alice Sunshine at 510-384-1967 or Niesha Fritz at 916-281-8785.

ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA FACULTY ASSOCIATION: CFA represents more than 28,000 tenure-line instructional faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches on the 23 campuses of the California State University system, from Humboldt State in the north, to San Diego State in the south. Learn more about CFA at calfac.org and visit our Facebook page.

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