Public colleges and research universities in New Jersey can apply for a portion of the $15 million allocated for mental health services by the state as students continue to face rising rates of suicide and depression — a trend widely considered to have worsened during the pandemic.
The funds come from the US bailout and are also available to independent colleges that receive state aid, the Murphy administration said.
The plan provided the third and largest distribution of COVID-19 relief funds to states in 2021 to deal with setbacks from the pandemic.
In New Jersey, an additional $10 million of the fund will be used to establish free statewide telehealth counseling services available to all students.
Colleges generally welcomed the news of the funding, which will be awarded based on student enrollment. Bergen Community College at Paramus has seen an increase in student mental health needs during the pandemic and will apply for the funds, administrators said.
“I believe every school, hospital and private therapist out there has done this. [see an uptick]. Our first semester back on campus [fall 2021]we had a 30% increase in first personal counseling appointments,” said Jennifer Migliorino-Reyes, assistant vice president of student affairs.
State agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called attention to a mental health “emergency” among youth and school children in 2020, citing steadily rising suicide rates between 2010 and 2020. In 2018 , suicide was the second leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 24, the American Academy of Pediatrics said. And New Jersey was one of five out of 14 states that saw an absolute increase in teen suicides in 2020, JAMA Pediatrics reported, though it’s still unclear whether that’s long-term effects.
Undergraduate enrollment fell by 560,000, a 3.6% decline, in 2020 from the previous year, reported a 2021 federal government study of the impact of COVID-19 on students. students. The numbers were highest among community colleges that disproportionately serve students with the fewest resources. Students were “leaving higher education – or not entering at all, losing their jobs, taking fewer courses, juggling care responsibilities, and worrying about their financial well-being and work opportunities.”
There’s no doubt this is a good use of funds that could save lives, said Sheila Reynertson, senior policy analyst at the New Jersey Policy Perspective think tank, but is the government ready to do so? sustain beyond December 2026, when federal aid money expires?
“The need for mental health funding will last long after these federal dollars, so lawmakers must be prepared to sustain this investment with state funding in years to come,” said Reynertson, whose organization also publishes research in favor of vulnerable and minority populations.
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Another question is whether the state has a plan to track the effectiveness of these programs and whether they will incur further financial obligations. The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, which administers these grants, will track accountability through a detailed grant application and semi-annual progress reports filed by colleges. However, outside experts like Reynertson have called for more transparency and public input on how the state prioritizes and allocates relief money, saying there should be “clawback provisions” for the disaster. money that is misused.
Funding for the grant comes from a unique provision called Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the American Rescue Plan. Public health is one possible use of funds allocated by the federal government. Funds can also be spent to recover lost revenue for government services, wages for essential workers, and investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. The Murphy administration allocated large sums of relief money to these areas, such as $300 million for water infrastructure and $170 million for home lead paint remediation.
State departments have received a total of $55 million for 2023 for youth mental health, and its programs support Gov. Phil Murphy’s “Strengthening Youth Mental Health” initiative, Christi Peace said at the door. -word from the governor’s office. Murphy embraced the initiative in July as a platform after being named president of the National Governors Association.
The $15 million grants and the $10 million for telehealth will focus on access to counseling services. The state budget also allocated $3.5 million to the Department of Education to train public school staff in managing student anxiety and stress through the DREAMS program. An additional $2.7 million went to a mental health first aid pilot program for teens, $2.4 million to peer counseling for students, and $1.2 million to the Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide.
Funds for the program are divided between the departments of state education, children and families, higher education, and social services.
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Colleges have seen an increase in the need for mental health supports for students during the pandemic, compared to before 2020. The number of students served by Rutgers Counseling, ADAP & Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, in New Brunswick has increased by 18.8% between 2020 and 21 and 2021-22. Custody and crisis appointments increased 78% when students returned to campus in 2021, compared to when services were remote, a university spokesperson said.
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Unrelated to the new funding, Montclair State University said it previously used $300,000 in COVID relief to meet additional mental health needs, to hire staff and counselors. Bergen Community College used $200,000 to expand its student support services. That meant adding more on-demand counseling staff for in-person and virtual services. He expanded his pantry to offer non-food essentials, renaming it Bergen Cares Center, and opened Threads, a free clothing space that offers formal wear for job interviews and clothes for everyone. days.
Passaic County Community College has launched a campaign called “In Crisis? You Are Not Alone” on its campuses and has increased its outreach and direct care to students by referring them to community resources. Again, staff members observed that a strategy to address emotional and basic needs helped students to persevere, a spokesperson said.
“In many ways, this money has helped us re-evaluate the services offered for the health and well-being of our students,” said Migliorino-Reyes, of Bergen Community College. It showed a need to scale up services beyond federal relief funds, she said.
Bergen will apply for the recently announced grant to expand its after-hours services and hire an addictions counselor.
Colleges will need to identify partners with whom to collaborate before they can apply for a grant; the deadline is January 31. The total amount of the scholarship will be calculated based on student enrollment in each college and a fixed dollar value that represents the college’s share of enrollment in its area. An additional $21,739 is available to each college in the form of professional development grants.
Funding for these programs has been reserved in the FY2023 budget, but the programs will be available during the year.
The New Jersey Youth Mental Initiative is organized into four categories:
- Access to services: $34.3 million ― $15 million for mental health service provider grants for higher education institutions, $10 million for telehealth mental health supports, $5 million for the Assertive Community Treatment Pilot Project and 4 $.3 million for COVID respite services for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Mental health care delivery and systems: $7.5 million ― $1 million for higher education mental health professional development and $6.5 million for school-related services federal revenue planning to ensure New Jersey maximizes federal revenue in its provision of mental health services in schools.
- Awareness and Resilience: $8.1 million ― $3.6 million for adolescent mental health through DREAMS, $3.3 million to strengthen the training of educators and staff to support youth mental health, and $1.2 million for Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide.
- Empowered Peer Supports: $6.6 million ― $2.7 million for the Teen Mental Health First Aid pilot program for high schools, $1.5 million for mental health first aid training for higher education institutions and $2.4 million for higher education peer counseling.
Independent colleges that can apply for these grants are Bloomfield College, Caldwell University, Centenary University, Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Felician University, Georgian Court University, Monmouth University, Pillar College, Rider University, Saint Elizabeth University, Saint Peter’s University, Seton . Hall University and Stevens Institute of Technology. The program is also available to community colleges and public universities around the state.
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