The U.S. Department of Education (ED) encourages colleges to use available funds allocated through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to address the mental health of students, faculty, and staff .
The department released new guidelines Thursday for higher education institutions to provide mental health assistance to students and employees. It includes examples of how colleges can use HEERF for evidence-based mental health supports for students and connect the campus community to providers and care. This includes treatment services for substance use disorders and support for students, faculty and staff affected by the pandemic, which has exacerbated mental health issues.
In its Q&A-formatted guidelines, ED notes that while funds and time to use HEERF grants are limited, it hopes colleges can leverage the funds to build more robust mental health systems in relation to local organizations, philanthropies and other funders. (The department recently extended the deadline by which colleges must use their HEERF stipends until June 30, 2023.)
Colleges and universities can use HEERF funds to leverage long-term or short-term efforts, such as hiring counselors, social workers, and other mental health personnel. He cites as an example that Sinclair Community College in Ohio hired a social worker to provide case management to more than 380 students in the fall of 2021 alone.
Institutions can also use the money to expand telehealth. He notes how Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa College, a tribal college in rural Wisconsin, used its funds for a virtual platform that allows students and faculty to access the application 24/7. , to advisers.
Wellness activities such as fitness and healthy eating — which ED says can be part of a holistic approach to mental care — may also be eligible to use the funds.
Additionally, the guidelines include examples of how colleges can use the funds to address longer-term mental health issues, such as suicide prevention and crisis intervention training. Davidson-Davie Community College in North Carolina used HEERF grants to provide mental health first aid courses and materials to more than 30 faculty and staff to better serve those on campus who may be at risk. struggling with a mental or substance use disorder.
ED notes that HEERF grants can also be used for efforts such as creating suicide prevention coordinating committees, task forces, or to help underserved populations of students or marginalized groups, including college students. LGBTQ+ and students who have survived violence.