April 17, 2019

Bill Aimed to Better Treat and Prevent Mental Illness in Higher Education Passes Senate

SDO Photo

State Senator Will Haskell discusses Senate Bill No. 750 Wednesday on the Senate floor.

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) led debate on a bill to improve prevention and treatment of mental illnesses at institutions of higher education in Connecticut. The bill passed through the State Senate on a unanimous and bipartisan basis. State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, lauded the bill’s advancement.

“Mental illness is something that affects so many people, especially in college settings,” said Sen. Haskell. “According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, from 2009 to 2015, anxiety on college campuses grew by almost 6 percent, while instances of depression and panic attacks each increased by about 3 percent. Up to 75 percent of mental illnesses arise before the age of 24, but only one in every five college students with mental illness seek help in a given year. That underlines the gravity of the epidemic of mental health on our college campuses. By putting this task force in place, we can learn how to best support our students and give them the care they need. Our institutions of higher education are perhaps Connecticut’s greatest asset. We cannot let depression or anxiety harm Connecticut students and this asset.”

Senate Bill No. 750, “An Act Concerning the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness at Institutions of Higher Education,” will put a task force in place that studies policies and procedures currently in place to prevent or treat mental illnesses in students. The task force will further recommend state-wide policies regarding mental health services in higher education.

Among the task force’s responsibilities is the development of a report of its findings, which it will need to submit to the General Assembly by January 1, 2020. In that report, the task force will report on colleges and universities’ informing of students of mental health services, how those services are distributed, rates of usage of those services, levels of engagement with organizations providing treatment and service, comments from students and alumni who utilized those services, how schools treat students who take leaves of absence due to mental illness, training of staff who identify students experiencing mental illness, and analyzing types of services sought by students.

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities and the University of Connecticut both advocated in support of this bill, as did a number of students. Before its acceptance by the Senate, it was unanimously approved by the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.