Study: Mental health care will help hundreds graduate

California program paid off in graduates

An initiative to expand access to student mental health services in California generated significant long-term economic benefits, according to a new study from RAND Corporation, Bourree Lam reports for The Atlantic.

"Mental-health disorders can hinder educational outcomes, lowering grades, delaying students' graduations, and causing students to drop out," Lam writes. Many schools are increasing their investment in mental health services as more students struggle with issues such as anxiety and depression.

A new study from RAND suggests investing in mental health can pay for itself over the long term. The study looked at the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA). The program, which was launched in 2011, invests about $8.7 million annually to increase access to mental health services on 10 University of California campuses, 23 California State University schools, and 112 state community colleges.

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Using two rounds of surveys launched between 2013 and 2015, RAND estimated how many more students with mental health issues were being treated as a result of the program. RAND also built a statistical model based on existing research to project how many more students were graduating as the result of CalMHSA.

Overall, RAND estimates that 13.2% more students received care and 329 more students will graduate as the result of CalMHSA each year. Using an estimate from the Federal Reserve of San Francisco, RAND projected that the increase in graduates will also produce $56 million in benefits to the community.

Scott Ashwood, the study's lead author, says it "is important that we understand that investing in student mental health not only can get more students into care, but that society benefits financially through increased wages and tax revenues" (Lam, The Atlantic, 12/13).

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