VCCS State Board approves policy change regarding mental health services

Home|Blog|VCCS State Board approves policy change regarding mental health services

Recognizing significant and documented levels of anxiety and depression among community college students due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges has approved a policy change to allow VCCS colleges to contract with third-party providers to offer mental health services to students.

The action came during the Board’s meeting in Richmond on September 23rd and is effective immediately.  State procurement laws will dictate how soon colleges will be able to contract with service providers.

Previous policy prohibited the offering of such services. Instead, it encouraged collaborations between the colleges and their local Community Service Boards (CSBs) to address the mental health needs of community college students.

The new policy comes in response to calls from some colleges who want to use available federal Covid-19 funding to offer mental health services.  Members of the State Board noted these funds will be available for the next couple of years but warned the long-term sustainability of offering mental health services on the campuses of Virginia’s Community Colleges has yet to be determined.  In fact, Virginia’s current state budget includes language prohibiting the usage of state tax dollars to continue programs started with federal COVID-19 relief funding.

Largely in response to those important funding realities, the new policy includes important limitations:

  • The policy change allows individual Virginia community colleges to offer these services, but it does not require them to do so.
  • Colleges who choose not to offer mental health services through this new policy will still be encouraged to collaborate with local Community Service Boards to address the mental health needs of their students.
  • The new policy also specifies that colleges who go forward with mental health services need to contract with third-party providers to do so.
  • The new policy also makes clear that community college employees – even those who are trained and licensed to provide mental health services – cannot provide mental health services to a student. Instead, they are allowed only to use their professional expertise and judgment to refer them to mental health service providers when appropriate.
  • The new policy specifies that mental health services will be available to students in both traditional academic programs, as well as non-credit and FastForward training programs. However, mental health services will not be offered to high school students who are taking Dual Enrollment courses, even if those classes are conducted on a community college campus.
  • The new policy also requires Virginia’s Community Colleges to create and implement training on their campuses so that students, faculty, and staff can identify and address students who demonstrate suicidal tendencies or behavior.

If you have questions, please contact the student services office at your college.

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