In an effort to help more college students access mental health services, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt and Daniel Benson would require institutions of higher education to help students access mental health services and hotlines. The legislation unanimously passed the full Assembly Monday.
According to statistics provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness and more than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year.
The measure (A-3007) would require institutions of higher education to create and maintain a 24-hour, toll-free hotline to help students seeking counseling for depression, anxiety, stress, or other psychological/emotional tension, trauma, or disorders.
In lieu of establishing a hotline, colleges would be permitted to provide students with the hotline number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the NJ Hopeline or any other 24/7 mental health hotline deemed appropriate by the Secretary of Higher Education instead. Hotline information would be distributed to students and posted in dormitories, libraries, student centers and other appropriate areas.
The bill further requires educational institutions to ensure all on-campus students have access to campus-based mental health care programs and services. The school must provide any student who is unable to access on-campus services with assistance and referrals to other mental health services.
Each newly-enrolled student must also receive information concerning the location and availability of these programs/services under the bill. It would take effect in the 2021-2022 school year.
Assembly Democrats Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington) and Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“When a student is in crisis, we want them to know help is available and easily accessible. Most importantly, we want them to know they are not alone.
“Hotlines can serve as a first step in a student’s road to treatment. Qualified mental health professionals connect youth in crisis to appropriate services and guide them through difficult moments.
“By requiring colleges to maintain hotlines and raise awareness for mental health services, we will ensure every student has 24/7 access to mental health care at the touch of a button.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.