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State to Provide More Mental Health Funds to colleges

The state will provide $7.7 million in additional new to support North Carolina’s community colleges, colleges and universities in providing additional mental health services to students.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced the funding Monday. The funding follows a similar $5 million in mental health funds awarded to UNC in 2021. Funding for these initiatives is from federal Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS) funds that have reverted to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.

“Identifying their mental distress and getting them access to quality treatment is more critical for our students than ever,” Cooper said in a press release. "This investment will help our state’s colleges and universities better support their students so they can thrive.”

The UNC System will collaborate with the Community College System along with the state’s independent colleges and universities to offer suicide prevention training to faculty and staff. The UNC System will also use this funding to continue to provide students across all 17 UNC institutions access to an after-hours mental health hotline and develop a new resiliency training program for faculty, staff, and students.

With the initial $5 million investment in 2021, the UNC System launched a Mental Health First Aid training initiative to help college and university faculty and staff identify, understand and respond to mental health and substance abuse disorders. As of November 2022, the UNC System had trained 274 Mental Health First Aid instructors across the UNC System, the NC Community College System, and the state’s independent colleges and universities. Those trained instructors have, in turn, trained nearly 2,500 faculty and staff across their campuses.

“There has been a troubling rise in mental health challenges for young people across our nation, and we’re seeing the impact here in North Carolina,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “We need to meet that need with urgency and compassion, and these funds go a long way in helping us reach students who are struggling.”

The state previously invested $5 million in GEER funds to the state Department of Health and Human Services to support Youth Mental Health First Aid training for adults who work with youth ages 12-18, including teachers and school staff. Another $40 million in GEER funds in August 2020 went to K-12 public schools to help schools address students’ physical and mental health needs during the pandemic.

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