Governor Lamont Launches $2.7 Million Program to Enhance Mental Health Services at Higher Education Institutions
Connecticut Campus Mental Health Program Will Provide Funding to Support Student Mental Health Services Following Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced the launch of a new state program that will provide $2.7 million to colleges and universities in Connecticut as they respond to the ongoing student mental health challenges driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding is being supported by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which utilizes federal coronavirus relief aid dedicated to the state.
The Connecticut Campus Mental Health Program will provide awards to eligible higher education institutions to drive innovative and evidence-based strategies that enhance student access to care; boost education and awareness of mental health services and programs available to students, either on or off campus; and equip staff and students with knowledge for supporting students with mental illnesses, particularly those from minority or traditionally underserved backgrounds.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating toll on the mental health of college and university students that, left unchecked, could have significant long-term ramifications on their overall wellbeing,” Governor Lamont said. “This funding is an important step forward in ensuring our institutions of higher learning are equipped to provide every ounce of support possible to students in need after a stressful school year.”
The program is projected to benefit more than 130,000 undergraduate students across 28 colleges and universities in Connecticut. It comes on the heels of legislation signed into law by Governor Lamont earlier this year that charges institutions of higher education with assessing and, where necessary, enhancing mental health services for students on campus.
Grants will be administered by the Connecticut Office of Higher Education, in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Office of the Governor.
“We recognize the challenges that students have been facing on college campuses as they have been forced to adapt to the stresses of the pandemic,” Timothy D. Larson, executive director of Connecticut Office of Higher Education, said. “Designating funds to support their mental health is not only crucial to their well-being but also a good investment in our future leaders.”
The launch of the program comes at a vital period in Connecticut’s pandemic recovery efforts. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic impacts, and the mounting awareness of systemic racism and inequality, the presence of mental health issues for students is at an all-time high. In fall 2020, 39% and 34% of college students reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively. Furthermore, 83% of students said that their mental health had negatively impacted their academic performance. Higher education administrators have noted similar trends – in fact, 72% of college and university presidents identified student mental health as a pressing issue for this school year. Many institutions of higher education in Connecticut report that counseling centers have seen a significant increase in student demand.
“Some COVID-19 risk mitigation measures, such as continued physical isolation, put students at greater risk of facing mental health impacts from the pandemic,” Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Nancy Navarretta said. “Without proper mental health support and resources for students in need, there are a range of potentially serious and lasting consequences, including more students dropping out of school and higher rates of depression and anxiety. There’s no more important investment of state funds and resources, nor one that will pay bigger dividends in the future, than the investment in young peoples’ mental health.”
The launch of the program was announced by the governor this morning during a roundtable discussion on the campus of the University of New Haven in West Haven.
“Due to the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on college students, we have seen a tremendous increase in the need for mental health resources on our campus,” University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan said. “As we continue to respond to this urgent issue, it is critical that we provide all of our students – our state’s future leaders – the support and resources they need to thrive and excel. I commend Governor Lamont and leaders from across the state for investing in programs that benefit the mental health of college students in Connecticut. I believe this is one of the most important investments we can make.”
Applications will be open to all nonprofit undergraduate institutions with an endowment per student of less than $100,000, as referenced in the 2019 Connecticut Higher Education System Data and Trends Report. Maximum grant allocations have been predetermined based on each institution’s undergraduate student population and the percentage of those students receiving a Pell grant. Institutions applying for the grant can receive up to the maximum grant award based on a successfully completed application aligned with the grant program criteria.
Institutions receiving grant funding will be required to describe specific uses for the funds, including how grants can be equitably distributed to benefit minority, underrepresented, and/or disadvantaged student populations. For more information on the Connecticut Campus Mental Health Program and the link to the grant application, visit www.ctohe.org.