Mental Health Counselors on Campus (VETOED)

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 968 would require all California State University and University of California campuses to provide at least one mental health counselor for every 1,500 students. Campuses would also have to survey students every three years on their mental health needs, and share their findings with the legislature. Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Democrat from Sacramento, authored the bill.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Students have been raising the alarm about a growing demand for campus mental health services, citing the contentious political climate and high living costs as contributing to their stress. The California Faculty Association, which also represents CSU mental health counselors, co-sponsored the bill along with SEIU California. A coalition of health care advocacy organizations and the Cal State Students Association also endorsed it.

WHO’S OPPOSED

The bill garnered no official opposition. But CSU’s director of wellness told CALmatters she wasn’t sure mandating staffing ratios was the best way to improve mental health care. CSU and UC would have to spend a combined $10 to $14 million to comply in the first year the bill takes effect, according to a legislative analysis.

WHY IT MATTERS

Only eight of 23 Cal State campuses currently meet the staffing levels recommended by the national accreditor for campus counseling centers. However, SB 968 excludes community colleges, which have even fewer mental health counselors. It also doesn’t set aside any funding, so it will only go into effect if the legislature passes a separate bill to pay for it.

GOVERNOR’S DECISION

Vetoed by Governor Brown on September 23, 2018.

From his veto message: “Investing greater resources in student mental health is an understandable goal. Such investments, however, should be actively considered and made within the budget process.”

—Felicia Mello