Illinois General Assembly Considering Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act Funding Bill

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Illinois General Assembly Considering Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act Funding Bill

Mar 30, 2022

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The Illinois General Assembly is considering new legislation that would provide critical funding to Illinois public colleges and universities to implement the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act (110 ILCS 58/1 et seq.).

In recent years, institutions of higher education have seen a sharp increase in the number of students matriculating with a history of significant mental health concerns.  Campuses and their counseling centers are seeing increased, unmet demand from students,[1] and the mental health challenges faced by students have only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 9 in 10 students reporting that COVID-19 has impacted their overall mental health.[2]

To address the growing mental health needs of college students throughout the State, the General Assembly passed the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act (“Act”) in 2019.  As detailed in a previous Robbins Schwartz In Brief, the Act requires Illinois public two-year and four-year institutions to bolster their mental health supports for students through:  increased training and awareness; the development and implementation of a peer support program and mental health screening tool; and the formulation of strategic partnerships with local mental health service providers.  The Act also requires institutions, through a combination of on-campus mental health services, agreements with local service providers and/or contracts with telehealth therapy services, to target a benchmark ratio of one clinical, non-student staff member for every 1,250 students.  Although the Act went into effect on July 1, 2020, it has remained unfunded, leaving institutions without the resources necessary to fully implement the Act’s requirements.

On January 31, 2022, the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Appropriations Act (HB 5424/SB 4055) was introduced.  If passed, HB 5424/SB 4055 would provide $19 million to Illinois public higher education institutions in Fiscal Year 2023 to implement the Act’s requirements.  The Bill would also require the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, in conjunction with the Illinois Community College Board and Board of Higher Education, to make recommendations to the General Assembly on the amounts necessary to implement the Act for Fiscal Years 2024-2027.

This proposed legislation is an important acknowledgment of the critical mental health support that is needed at institutions across the State. HB 5424 is scheduled for a hearing before the Appropriations-Human Services Committee on Mar 31. We will continue to monitor the status of HB 5424/SB 4055 and will provide updates on the proposed legislation’s progress.

Please contact your Robbins Schwartz attorney with any questions about what this proposed legislation may mean for your students and institution.