Funds from the campus security fee at UNC System schools can now be allocated toward suicide prevention and intervention resources.
The UNC System Board of Governors passed a motion at its Feb. 18 meeting to allow this new use of the funds. It also increased the security fee by $30 at all UNC System schools. For students at UNC-Chapel Hill, this means that the campus security fee for the 2021-22 school year will be $60.
The University encourages students dealing with mental health issues to reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services for resources, meetings with counselors or referrals to outside psychologists. For immediate emergencies, call the CAPS 24/7 hotline at 919-966-3658 to speak with the counselor on call.
Universities may choose to spend this extra funding on student mental health support and crisis response services, but they can use the money as they deem appropriate.
W. Marty Kotis III, a member of the BOG’s Committee on Budget and Finance, said the goal of the increase is to combat the system’s recent struggle to recruit and train high-quality police officers. A motion was later added stipulating that these funds can be used specifically for crisis intervention and mental health services.
The original motion, as presented by Chairperson of the BOG Committee on Budget and Finance Jim Holmes, centered on suicide counseling and prevention. But Kotis proposed an amendment to the motion to account for suicide intervention and crisis response teams. Kotis said that counseling is important, but for emergency situations, it is necessary to have officers who are available at all hours.
“It's not going to help if you've got a nine-to-five mental health professional that's not out there when you need them,” he said. “So it has to be someone that's intervening at these odd hours when a lot of these things come up.”
Kotis said the additional funding may go toward increased officer training on topics such as de-escalation strategies at facilities like the Samarcand Training Academy in Moore County.
Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the chairperson of the psychiatry department at the UNC School of Medicine, said the best way to make use of the additional funding would be to develop real-time connection and support, both virtually and in-person if the situation calls for it.
Despite the direct support for law enforcement that comes from the fee, she said it is important to create an approach that focuses on engagement with mental health professionals.
“There has to be very thoughtful discussions around when it is appropriate to have virtual mental health support and when it is appropriate to have a crisis or social work team appear,” Meltzer-Brody said.
Meltzer-Brody said the motion was a first step toward dealing with worsening mental health among college-aged students, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent study out of Texas A&M University indicated that more than two-thirds of college students have experienced increased levels of stress and anxiety due to the pandemic.
According to a study from the Carolina Population Center and the UNC School of Medicine, first-year students specifically have reported experiencing depression and anxiety significantly more often than before the start of the pandemic.
“Like other universities across the country, we have seen a steady increase in the need for mental health care over the last several years, and we know that the pandemic has increased this need,” Dean Blackburn, director of Student Wellness and associate dean of students at UNC, said in a statement. “We are currently working with the UNC System Office to determine if we will make any changes to our programs to align with the Board of Governors' resolution.”
Meltzer-Brody said she hopes the University involves students in the planning process of how to shape any additional protocols put in place after the BOG resolution, to ensure that they would actually be helpful for the student body.
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