The California Faculty Association-sponsored Senate Bill 968, which would mandate the number of mental health counselors on CSU campuses, has been moved to a final vote this Friday.
The bill would require all CSU campuses to meet the requirements of one mental health counselor for every 1,500 students for a full counseling staff. According to the International Association of Counseling Services, this is the recommended ratio to best serve students in today’s college campuses.
“Passage of this bill is a necessary step toward helping students who are worried, working, homeless and hungry to get the emotional support they need to complete their degrees and contribute to California’s economy,” said Mimi Bommersbach, a mental health counselor at CSU Chico, in a statement for the CFA.
According to the American Psychological Association, since the 1990s universities and their counseling services have experienced a steep shift in the needs of their students for appropriate mental health services. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for college students and third-leading for young people aged 15-24.
SB 968 outlines that one in four students have a diagnosable mental health illness and nearly 40 percent of them don’t seek help. The bill also states that students of color may face additional stressors on college campuses, including discrimination, immigration status or financial hardship.
“At this very time students’ anxiety is rising over debt and cost of living. Students are facing longer wait times to see a counselor on the campuses,” Bommersbach said in the same statement. “There are too few mental health counselors to keep up with student need.”
During the Spring 2018 semester and throughout the month of May, CFA organized the Tissues for Issues event, which was a travelling art display that went through multiple CSU campuses, including SF State on May 9.
The art display showed a single chair surrounded by 3,700 pocket tissues signifying the current ratio of SF State mental health counselors to students: one counselor for every 3,700 student.
SF State has currently employed only eight counselors for the upcoming Fall semester and must meet a staff of at least 25 to satisfy SB 968 if passed.
SB 968 would require CSU campuses to report on their counseling services to the legislature on or before January 1, 2020 and every three years after. These reports are also required to collect data on campus surveys and focus groups aimed at understanding the mental health concerns and needs of students on each campus.
SB 968 is scheduled for a final vote on the assembly floor this Friday, Aug. 31. If passed the bill will then go to the governor to sign into law.