ACHA Pens Open Letter to the Next President Regarding Health and Well-Being of College Students
Dear 45th President of the United States of America,
On behalf of the nation’s 20 million college students, the American College Health Association (ACHA) would like to congratulate you and welcome you as our nation’s leader. As the leading national organization dedicated to student health and wellness, ACHA represents 800 institutions of higher learning and nearly 3,000 individual members from throughout the nation and abroad.
As you ascend to the presidency, you no doubt will face a myriad of issues that will require your immediate attention. We trust that chief among your priorities will be ensuring the future health and well-being of our nation’s citizens and the leaders of tomorrow. The college students of today directly contribute to our enduring legacy as they will become the cornerstone of our nation’s future workforce and leaders.
Therefore, we offer a three-point agenda of college health priorities and respectfully ask you to act on these items, ideally within your first 100 days in office:
Expand Resources for Campus Mental Health Services and Suicide Prevention
According to the spring 2016 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) survey, 17% of college student respondents reported being diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last year, and 13.9% reported being diagnosed with or treated for depression. This is an increase from 11.6% for anxiety and 10.7% for depression in the spring 2011 version of our survey. Even more alarming, 9.8% of spring 2016 student respondents reported actively considering suicide within the past year and 1.5% had an actual suicide attempt. This is just a snapshot of the need to maintain and/or expand mental health resources on every campus.
ACHA implores your administration to prioritize the adoption of the bipartisan-supported Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act and any related bills that would expand funding opportunities for increased adolescent/young adult mental health resources and suicide prevention initiatives.
Address Technical Fixes to the Affordable Care Act to Improve College Health Insurance Accessibility
Student health insurance plans ("SHIPs") are an important part of the health insurance landscape for young adults. In many cases, SHIP offerings are comparable to a gold or platinum plan offered on a state exchange. ACHA respectfully calls on your administration to support legislative and regulatory approaches protecting the viability of SHIPs to retain the breadth of health insurance options currently available to college students.
Please know that our membership has significant expertise on the intersection between the provision of college health services and the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, ACHA has data about the utilization and quality of SHIPs that can inform any legislative fixes that may be contemplated. We are willing and anxious to engage with your administration on this vitally important issue.
Preserve Flexibilities to Protect Student Privacy Concerning Sexual Assault
In 2015, ACHA launched a task force that has developed guidelines to enable campuses to better respond to and prevent sexual assault. Using a public health framework, the guidelines, Addressing Sexual and Relationship Violence on College and University Campuses [pdf], are the foundation of a forthcoming toolkit for campus administrators and staff.
ACHA member campuses have licensed therapists and counselors who work closely with lay volunteers and staff to provide victims of sexual assault and relationship violence with professional, compassionate, and discreet support and advocacy. While our licensed staff members commonly have privacy protection under state and federal law, these important lay staff and volunteers seldom do. ACHA respectfully asks your administration to provide flexibilities to protect student privacy in the provision of victim advocacy support services delivered by lay volunteers and staff.
Through action on these priorities, your administration can promote the health, well-being, and safety of our nation’s college students. ACHA and our members stand ready to collaborate, assist, and advise you and your transition team on these three high-priority, time-sensitive agenda items, as well as other issues of importance to the health and safety of college students that may arise during your administration. Once again, congratulations and best wishes as you begin your presidency.
Jamie Davidson, PhD, FACHA
Associate Vice President, Student Wellness
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
President, American College Health Association