Three measures moving through the state Legislature are focused on addressing mental-health services at colleges and universities.
All of the bills, including one identical measure in the Assembly and Senate, seek to bolster the existing Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act of 2016 that requires schools make a mental health professional available around the clock to counsel students.
One of the bills, the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act, would ask schools to reach a clinician-to-student benchmark ratio of 1 to 1,250 students, “in line with best practices recommended by national organizations that conduct research in college mental health.”
At Rowan University, there have been four suicides since 2017, all after falls from the same parking garage and the most recent this past November. About 150 gathered at a plaza along Route 322 listened to a series of speakers express concerns about campus mental-health services. Officials to have have a total of they plan to hire another counselor next month to bring its total to 17.
Last year, Rowan ranked its clinical operation as having 137 cases per counselor. The average ratio is 120 cases per counselor. “When clinicians have a smaller caseload, students have better access to treatment,” said Ben Locke, the former senior director of counseling and psychological services at Penn State University and former executive director of CCMH.
“As a nation, we don’t prioritize mental health,” Amy Hoch, the associate director of Rowan’s health services said last week. “It’s a national problem, not just a Rowan problem.”
Students and faculty listen as Ryan Clare, a fifth year music major, reads off a list of demands at a rally for improved mental health services at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ on Monday, November 8, 2021. The rally was sparked by the recent suicide of a student on campus.Dave Hernandez | For NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Students who gathered for the rally last month said Rowan had addressed some problems like semester-long waiting times for initial counseling appointments. But now they say students are often referred to group counseling instead of individual sessions.
Houshmand said Rowan is also planning to build an addition to its student center, which is nearly 50 years old. Bids for the new glass enclosure with views of Route 322, which runs through the center of the campus, were due this week. Houshmand said he hoped the expansion would provide improved recreational space for students.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be reduced with the proper mental health support and treatment. If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.