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October 21, 2021

Trone, Casey Introduce Bill to Establish Commission to Study Mental Health Supports at Colleges and Universities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 21, 2021

Contact: Sasha Galbreath, Sasha.Galbreath@mail.house.gov 

Trone, Casey Introduce Bill to Establish Commission to Study Mental Health Supports at Colleges and Universities 

Research has shown that more than 75 percent of mental health conditions begin before the age of 24

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman David Trone (D-MD) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the bipartisan Higher Education Mental Health Act to address concerns about student mental health throughout the nation’s colleges and universities. 

The bill would establish a National Commission to examine the current policies in place that aid student achievement, as well as the quality of services available to students experiencing a mental health crisis. The Commission would be required to release a report with recommendations that higher education institutions, states and the federal government may implement to improve mental health services available to students and address the rising number of students with mental health concerns. 

“The pandemic was a disaster for the mental health of all Americans, but especially our college students,” said Congressman Trone. “Untreated mental health issues at a young age can affect folks throughout their entire lifetimes. We must ensure that our colleges and universities are providing top-notch mental health care for students. This bipartisan bill will make that happen and set our students up for success.”

“As we work to educate the next generation and prepare them for the workforce, we must ensure we’re taking students’ mental health needs into account,” said Senator Casey. “This legislation would establish a commission to examine mental health practices and provide recommendations to colleges and universities to improve those practices. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s leaders and this legislation is an important step to ensuring students have every opportunity to succeed.”

Congressman Trone and Senator Casey were joined in support by multiple Members of Congress and leaders from Maryland higher education institutions.

“Supporting the mental health needs of students of all ages is of critical importance, and we know that by bringing everyone to the table – advocates, experts, stakeholders, and students – to help better understand the unique mental health needs of college-age students, we can better advocate for policy initiatives that truly support their needs here in Congress,” said Rep. Wild. “The Higher Education Mental Health Commission Act takes a necessary step toward making sure every student gets the support they need, and has an equal chance to succeed.”

“As a physician, I am proud to be working with my colleagues from across the aisle to address the mental health needs of our students and young people,” said Rep. Joyce. “During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen alarming mental health trends that can have serious consequences if not properly addressed. This legislation will go a long way towards getting our students the help and support they need.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on the mental health of Americans, particularly our college students,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan legislation will ensure that students are set up for success by providing our nation’s colleges and universities with the guidance and recommendations that will enable our institutions of higher education to improve support services to students with mental health concerns.”

“Our bright, diverse and academically talented students face mental health challenges that deeply affect our student body, our faculty, and the staff who support the university,” said Darryll Pines, President of the University of Maryland. “We welcome resources that help us study student needs and think through how to continue addressing this national issue, and we especially appreciate an inclusive, equitable approach to mental health.”

“Providing the mental health services our students need is a challenge all colleges and universities are actively attempting to address. The Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2021, which is being introduced by Congressman David Trone, creates a structure for developing innovative strategies through a broad-based commission composed of experts in this field. I applaud this initiative, and plan to work for its passage,” said Dr. Richard Midcap, President of Garrett College.

“Attending college and receiving job training is a stressful time, whether or not a person has a mental health issue. There is pressure to perform well, as well as manage academic demands, family obligations, and often job responsibilities. In some cases, it impacts the ability of a student to remain in college and complete the credentials needed to be successful. The global COVID-19 has exacerbated an already challenging time for our students. At Allegany College of Maryland, we are very supportive of research driven approaches to improve access to mental health services and in turn, increase retention and graduation rates, as well as prepare students to meet the needs of our communities,” said Dr. Cynthia S. Bambara, President of Allegany College.

“As the president of a university that is responding to an increased need for student mental health services accentuated by the uncertainty and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, I applaud Rep. David Trone’s bill to form a national commission to study students’ mental health concerns,” said Tim Trainor, President of Mount St. Mary’s University. “Higher education institutions would greatly appreciate a partnership with state and federal governments to improve mental health services and support the ever-growing number of students with mental health concerns.

“Addressing the mental health needs of students is more critical today than ever, as we strive to recover from the pandemic,” said Dr. Charlene Mickens Dukes, Interim President of Montgomery College. “Many students who attend community colleges are working multiple jobs, while caring for families, or are striving to learn new skills in a changing job market. The stress of coping with this balancing act during this crisis has been a heavy burden for many of our students.” 

More than half of students between the ages of 18 and 24 have reported feelings of hopelessness or severe psychological distress. Students are using services at much higher rates than the rates of enrollment in higher education, indicating an urgent need for increased services related to student mental health. The Commission created by this legislation would be composed of stakeholders from disability and student advocacy groups, individuals and students with mental health disabilities, family members of students in higher education and representatives from colleges and universities. 

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Representatives John Joyce (R-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

For bill text click here.

For one-pager click here.

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