LOGAN – It has been more than a week since the Utah State University Student Association (USUSA) declared mental health a crisis at the university. Matthew Clewett, USU’s student advocate vice president, said the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
Not only has support come in from organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, community officials, school administrators and students, but the declaration has gotten the attention of state leaders. Clewett said that there has been positive reception from Representative Ed Redd, R-District 4, and Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-District 25.
“We’ve seen them in support of this bill in taking before the state legislature during the upcoming session,” Clewett said. “I’m also planning on sitting down with Representative Redd over the next two or three days.”
Clewett said other higher education institutions are being approached to make the effort a more “cohesive front” as the 2017 legislative session approaches. He said USU Student Body President Ashley Waddoups brought the issue to the attention of other higher-education student leaders at a Utah Student Association meeting.
“They discussed the mental health legislation at length, trying to receive support from other higher education institutions’ student governments to pass similar pieces of legislation,” he said.
The mental health issue was declared a crisis due to the growing concern that the amount of professional help and the long wait times to see a counselor is insufficient. Clewett said it can often take six weeks for a USU student to see a counselor or get psychological help at the university, which he believes is far too long. According to Clewett, wait times at other institutions are even longer. Extra funding would mean more professional help, which would mean a faster response for those struggling.
“We need one counselor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students on campus,” Clewett said. “That would mean we need approximately 11 to 16 counselors. The number we have now is 7.25, being that some of them are part-time employees. That is well-below what we need at Utah State.”
Clewett said that everyone at USUSA is grateful the issue is being brought to the attention of the media and local leaders. He is hopeful it will lead to a positive outcome.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “This was the first step of passing it here at Utah State University. The next step is to get other schools to pass it as well. Going forward, the main priority of this legislation and subsequent legislation that may come about from other schools is to get funding from the state.”