Students Likely To Vote On Funding Expanded Mental Health Services

AS Elections 2020 - NewsNewsStudent Government

Banner displaying UC San Diego CAPS in front of their building at Galbraith Hall.
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

The Associated Students of UC San Diego (ASUCSD) Senate voted on January 15 to approve the language for a referendum for a new student fee funding expanded mental health services on the April 2020 ballot.

Students will decide whether to front the costs of increased personnel and programming for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Health Promotion Services. If passed, the referendum starts at $20.71 per quarter and is set to increase to $35.71 by 2022.

Based on enrollment numbers from 2018-19, this fee has the potential to generate over $2.4 million in annual revenue. 71% of the fee, over $1.7 million, will go towards various CAPS personnel and programs, which will include services to educate and support UCSD students’ mental health. The remaining 29% will fund financial aid.

The proposed fee does not clearly define how the funds are to be spent or how to measure the effectiveness of the fee. Instead, the referendum will create a new advisory committee, the Student Mental Health Advisory Committee (SMHAC), to oversee the proper administration and distribution of funds. SMHAC will include members from ASUCSD, the Graduate Student Association, UC San Diego Health, and Vice-Chancellor of Students Affairs Alysson Satterlund.

SMHAC will be in charge of producing annual budget reports and recommending future fee increases. Any fee increase over 4% will require a new student referendum, but SMHAC can recommend increases of up to 4%. Any increase over $1.43 starting Fall 2023 would require approval during the previous Spring’s student election.

CAPS is normally funded through the university student services fee, which also helps fund services such as student health, athletic facilities, and campus events. This is the first time that students will be asked to directly pay for CAPS through their student fees.

Student leaders statewide have been advocating for increased state funding for mental health services at state colleges, citing increasing demand. The number of UC students seeking mental health services increased by 78% between 2007-18, while the number of students enrolled grew by 27%.

Last year, the state budget added $5.3 million in new ongoing funds for UC mental health services. Emily Estus, a UC Berkeley graduate student and mental health researcher, argues that last year’s increase does not do enough to address the increasing demand for mental health services since the UC was already considering a similar increase to student fees to maintain current services.

The ASUCSD Senate is expected to vote on placing the referendum on the ballot for this spring’s campus elections. If approved, students will vote week 2 of Spring 2020 on TritonLink.

Jules Bruestch is a Staff Writer for The Triton. Assistance in research and writing for this article was provided by Mo Al Elew, Senior Staff Writer and Orianna Borrelli, News Editor for The Triton.

Correction: January 31 at 3:50 p.m. A previous version of this article stated that the referendum was approved for the spring 2020 ballot. The ASUCSD Senate only approved the language for the referendum to possibly be approved later this quarter. We apologize for this error.