Student-authored bill gains legislative support

Mental health bill hopes to combat depression, other illness in college students

A mental health bill proposed by University students has made its way to the Courts of Justice subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates. House Bill 206 asks public university governing boards to improve efforts in “identifying symptoms of depression earlier, [and making] it easier for students to find mental health resources at their school…”

The bill requires universities to host a website outlining the resources the school has available to students. “Our bill helps inform and educate students about mental health and what services are available [but] in no way alters current services offered by colleges and universities,” second-year College student Jarrod Nagurka, co-president of the bipartisan student organization Legislators of Tomorrow, said in an email.

The bill was written by 13 group members who sought to help students affected by depression and other mental illnesses find resources, Nagurka said.

Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, introduced the bill, and Del. Joseph Yost, R-Blacksburg, has also expressed support for the legislation.

“Mental illness often manifests itself during the college years, and Virginia’s colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to provide the necessary education that could ultimately lead to lifesaving treatment,” Hope said in a press release.

The bill also includes proposals for an online directory of mental health resources, an interactive module on mental health and an online assessment that follows up on the modules.

“[The bill] appeals to the humanity and common sense of individuals on both sides of the aisle,” said the group’s co-president Patrick MacDonnell, a second-year College student.

Mental health issues have been a hot topic in the state political circles following the attack on Del. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, in November by his son, who had seen a mental health professional the day before but could not be admitted because the hospital did not have open beds. “[The tragedy] only strengthened our resolve and commitment,” Nagurka said. “We wanted to tackle an issue that we knew we could solve and that we had firsthand experience with.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Del. Joseph Yost of Blacksburg was a Democrat. He is a Republican.

Published January 13, 2014 in FP test, News

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