Katsouleas acts on mental health care reform, promises reform for regional campuses

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Following the efforts made by UConn student Brittany Diaz and the UConn Collaborative Organizing group, a new mental health act was created. Just recently, UConn President Thomas Katsouleas passed the act, along with other initiatives, in order to promote mental health on Storrs and Regional campuses. Photo by Maggie Chafouleas / The Daily Campus

On Monday, University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas announced in an email to the student body that the Task Force on Mental Health and Wellness completed its eight-month long assessment of the university’s mental health care efforts. 

In March, Katsouleas commissioned the task force — a group of faculty, staff and students — to review the university’s existing mental health services and identify areas of student health care that need improvement. 

“One of the most pressing issues in higher education today is student mental health,” Katsouleas said. “The need for mental health services among students has gone up throughout the nation in recent years, including here at UConn. Understanding and meeting that need for our students is one of my highest priorities as president.” 

“The need for mental health services among students has gone up throughout the nation in recent years, including here at UConn. Understanding and meeting that need for our students is one of my highest priorities as president.” 

Thomas Katsouleas, UConn President

The president noted the task force’s work was not delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and said it’s important that the university acts “right away.” 

“This is not a report that will remain on a shelf,” Katsouleas said. “In fact, we are already moving forward.” 

UConn student Brittany Diaz is the author of the Mental Health Care Act, now passed by UConn President Thomas Katsouleas. Diaz was prompted to work on a new initiative for mental health following the suicide deaths of two UConn Students last year.

According to Katsouleas’ email, UConn Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) expanded its hours and hired a new director of equity and access to health care in order to optimize the impact of SHaW and to provide care that is “culturally competent” for minority students and students of color. 

SHaW will also be conducting a study on the use of campus police in responding to health emergencies, because, as Katsouleas noted, “police may not always be necessary” for things like medical transports. 

UConn Student Affairs will continue hiring mental health care and social workers in Spring 2021, as well as opening positions for diversity/inclusivity professionals. 

One of the recommendations included in the Task Force’s report is to establish a mental health care “hub” at the university where members of the community can go for help; training and goal setting. Katsouleas predicts the realization of this recommendation “likely” in Fall 2021 — after “we have ramped up the necessary staff.” 

Most importantly, Katsouleas highlighted one of the key points of the task force’s findings that mental health care reform for students must occur throughout the university as a whole. 

“A key point the task force makes — and many of their recommendations reflect this — is that mental health and wellness must be an institution-wide undertaking, not the work of one department,” Katsouleas said. “I am accepting each of the task force’s recommendations.” 

“A key point the task force makes — and many of their recommendations reflect this — is that mental health and wellness must be an institution-wide undertaking, not the work of one department. I am accepting each of the task force’s recommendations.”

Thomas Katsouleas, UConn President

Katsouleas said next Summer the university will conduct a review of student mental health care services at its regional campuses to be further implemented thereafter. 

“It is clear from students, student leadership, and the Task Force that more attention must be paid to providing access to care to our regional students,” Katsouleas said. 

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