February 4, 2012

Campus lacks resources to meet demand for mental health services, safety initiatives

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Gregory Hall.
While the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus has a campus-wide Emergency Operations Plan, only 16 percent of its buildings have building Emergency Action Plans. The Office of Emergency Planning began an initiative to establish such plans for every building on campus more than two years ago, but estimates it will take a decade to get plans in place. The plans help building staff prepare better responses to emergencies like the presence of a gunman in a classroom. On the UI campus on Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.

Gregory Hall. While the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus has a campus-wide Emergency Operations Plan, only 16 percent of its buildings have building Emergency Action Plans. The Office of Emergency Planning began an initiative to establish such plans for every building on campus more than two years ago, but estimates it will take a decade to get plans in place. The plans help building staff prepare better responses to emergencies like the presence of a gunman in a classroom. On the UI campus on Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.

For the past five months, journalism students and faculty have examined the state of mental health treatment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.

Their work was part of an examination of mental health programs conducted by the Investigative Journalism Education Consortium, a network of journalism faculty and students at Midwest universities and colleges that is funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation based in Chicago. (See full package here)

The consortium reviewed services at campus counseling centers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. The review found that centers often fell far short of the number of mental health providers recommended by the International Association of Counseling Services.

More than 10,000 students on the Illinois campus seek help from counseling center, which has 20 full-time counselors. Many have serious problems and more than 60 attempted suicide last year.

In their ongoing review, the students found the campus is unable to meet national standard for the counselor to student ratio. They also found that recommended safety measures following campus shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech have not been met or are being slowly implemented.

And they found the strain on the campus system is increasing as students with more serious mental illnesses are enrolling.