Home FEATURED N.J. offering $16M in grants to help college students with mental health

N.J. offering $16M in grants to help college students with mental health

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Students hold signs at a rally for improved mental health services at Rowan University in Glassboro in 2021.

Brent Johnson
nj.com

New Jersey is offering $16 million in grants to help colleges and other institutions of higher education address their students’ mental health needs, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

Experts say the U.S. has been facing a mental health crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The money comes from federal COVID-19 relief funds under the American Rescue Plan and was included in the state budget Murphy signed in June.

The office of the state Secretary of Higher Education will administer the grants to help pay for mental health initiatives at public colleges and higher education institutions in New Jersey that receive state aid.

“With sharp increases in the rates of depression, anxiety, and stress among youth in New Jersey and around the nation, it is clear many young people are struggling right now,” Murphy said in a statement. “We must do everything in our power to support youth mental health as we emerge from the pandemic and look towards the future.”

The state’s higher education department undertook a questionnaire on students’ mental and physical in 2021 that found more than 70% of those surveyed had levels of stress and an and anxiety that were higher than the year before, when the pandemic started.

Of the $16 million in grants, $15 million will be given to eligible higher education institution to create community partnerships to help address students’ mental health needs. The state is encouraging those Institutions to partner with local, state, or national organizations to use the money to offer services unique to their students.

The other $1 million will go toward professional development for faculty and staff to help engage with diverse student bodies.

Applications will be due Jan. 31, 2023.

“Students’ mental health may impact their academic progress, including retention and on-time graduation, particularly for those from historically underserved backgrounds,” state Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges said in a statement. “These grants will help our institutions deliver high-quality mental health services to all students and ensure that no student is turned away in their time of need.”

The state’s higher education departments will use another $10 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to establish a statewide telehealth program, expected to launch next year to help higher education students.

Murphy, a Democrat, made youth mental health a main platform as he assumed the leadership of the National Governors Association in July.

Meanwhile, the governor introduced a statewide plan in New Jersey to make mental wellness a priority in the classroom and identify and refer students in need of counseling services outside their school.

The original plan would have replaced a popular, decades-old mental health counseling program known as School-Based Youth Services.

But after an outcry from high school graduates, educators, and state lawmakers, Murphy announced that existing program will continue to operate, at least temporarily, as his administration moves forward with the new plan.

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