Mental health services are paying off in California

Tony Wagner Dec 10, 2015

As college campuses nationwide try and cope with increased demand for mental heath services, one study found the investment is paying off for California.

The RAND Corporation looked at the effects of investment in prevention and early intervention treatment at California public colleges over about a year and a half. The study, released Thursday, predicts a $56 million “societal benefit” from annual California Mental Health Services Authority funds averaging $8.7 million a year. RAND arrived at the figure using data on lifetime earnings for California college graduates compared to those who drop out.

RAND predicts that the nearly 24,000 more students getting mental heath services in 2014 will result in 329 more students graduating. Community college students, who had showed a greater need but less access to mental health resources, will benefit from a $11 return for every dollar spent on mental heath services, RAND calculated.

The study makes several assumptions, mainly that the new investment caused more students to get treatment. But it also attempts to connect graduation rates and earning potential to demand for campus mental health services. That’s important because some campuses are having a hard time keeping up, and often students have to foot the bill.

The University of California system, for example, plans to raise student fees by $270 over several years to absorb the cost of new hires, the Wall Street Journal reported this spring.

“The demand [by students] so outpaces the supply of appointments that it’s very hard to get a weekly appointment, even for students having pretty serious symptoms that interfere with their academic function,” Elizabeth Gong-Guy, UCLA’s executive director of counseling and psychological services told the Journal.

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