Earlier this month the Student Mental Health Task Force released its final report and recommendations for the university.

The Task Force was asked to cover four main areas including how mental health services are delivered at the three campuses, the internal coordination between student supports, the partnerships with external community organizations, and the physical space of the Health and Counselling Centre (HCC). 

Last week The Medium covered the first mandate and how the University of Toronto (U of T) agreed and responded to the Task Force recommendations.

Mandate two of the Task Force’s report specifically reviews “the coordination of student supports related to mental health across the university’s three campuses.”

Under mandate two, the Task Force made three recommendations.

The first recommendation stated that the university should “provide more integrated and coordinated care across campuses that promotes ease of access to supports for students.”

This recommendation comes from consultations with students, faculty, and staff where the issue of students facing “bureaucratic processes that create barriers to seeking and accessing mental health support and service” was brought up. The Task Force concluded that “this is due in part to the fact that intake processes and services are not consistent across the university.”

“Students registered at one campus but taking courses at another campus are required to register with each campus office for an academic accommodation related to a mental health disability, and recommended accommodations are not transferable from one campus to another,” stated the final report.

“The current model is burdensome to students and acts as a deterrent to seeking assistance for accommodation needs when taking courses outside of their primary campus,” added the report.

The Task Force also recommended shared databases so electronic records and reporting across HCCs and accessibility offices at the three campuses are kept consistent. The report stressed that this streamlining of services should include “establishing a single intake process, service protocol, database, and care model.”

In U of T’s administrative response to the final report they addressed the first recommendation of mandate two by creating the Mental Health Services Redesign Team that will “conduct a process redesign of student mental health services at U of T.”

The Redesign Team is meant to streamline mental health services across all campuses and will be spearheaded by professor Joseph Desloges, the former principal of Woodsworth College, and two Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) experts. 

The administrative response also affirmed that the Redesign Team will “initiate individual changes as expeditiously as possible, without waiting until all aspects of the redesign are ready.”

Recommendation eight asks the U of T to “establish a Clinical Director role with oversight of the three health centers to provide leadership and streamline processes and protocols related to mental health services.”

The Task Force added that the tri-campus Clinical Director would also be “responsible for identifying trends and challenges in the provision of mental health service delivery within post-secondary environments.”

The Task Force also stressed that the university recognize “the complexities associated with the establishment of such a position, ensure that the vision and scope of the role are clear, and consideration is given to the unique individual needs of each campus community.”

U of T is not clear on who the Clinical Director will be but do agree with the creation of such a position.

While discussing the Redesign Team in the administrative response letter, U of T stated that the “ultimate goal will be to create an integrated tri-campus system with one Clinical Director, one website, one consistent approach to way-finding, one online booking system, one electronic records system, and one institutional letter for accessibility services.”

The last recommendation under mandate one, recommendation nine, stated that the U of T should “implement an institutional integrated support system that facilitates early access to mental health resources for students.”

“We heard in consultations that not all students know how to seek help or are connected to the appropriate resources in a timely manner,” said the Task Force in the final report. “We heard concerns about students ‘falling through the cracks’ and not having support systems in place until their mental health issues reached a crisis point. We also heard about students not finding supports at all.”

To combat this, the Task Force recommended the university to integrate an “Early Access and Support System that prompts students, staff, and faculty to reach out for guidance if they or students they know are in need of access to mental health resources.”

In the administrative response to the final report, U of T administration agreed to the need for early intervention and support the assessment of students with potential mental health needs.

“We will also implement new measures to support all members of the U of T community in facilitating early access to mental health services for students in need,” stated the administrative report. “To that end, we will enhance our engagement with faculty and staff on this issue and provide them with additional resources and professional development opportunities.”

This story is ongoing. More to come.

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