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State Legislators Fund Campus Mental Health Services with Strong Advocate Support

January 12, 2023

Contact: Emma Couling
Contact: Emma Bittner


New funding was included in state’s FY23 supplemental budget for a campus mental health bill that became law in 2019 

CHICAGO, IL – Today, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago and Young Invincibles celebrate the inclusion of $9 million in state funding for all Illinois public colleges and universities in the Fiscal Year 2023 supplement budget. State Representative La Shawn K. Ford and State Senator Celina Villanueva have championed the advocacy to secure this funding. Both legislators have shown unwavering commitment to improving mental health services in higher education. NAMI Chicago and Young Invincibles have been advocating for this funding as part of a years-long advocacy campaign for campus mental health services, overwhelmingly supported by the states’ public higher education institutions.

The $9 million appropriation funds the 2019 Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act (MHEACA) for the remainder of FY23. The Act requires all public two- and four-year colleges and universities to support the mental health of students by:

  • Increasing training and awareness among faculty, staff, and students;
  • Building better mental health screening to better identify students in need;
  • Improving capacity to provide mental health treatment and peer support on campus; and
  • Creating a statewide Technical Assistance Center to assist in implementation and quality assurance.

Funding is appropriated to the public colleges and universities based on figures recommended by a 2019 report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA).

In response, Jen McGowan-Tomke, Chief Operating Officer at NAMI Chicago issued the following statement:

“Young people across the state are experiencing high rates of depression and anxiety. This can be compounded by the transition to college when they are managing school and work stress and potentially being away from home. Public systems must provide high quality services to address symptoms so students can experience an inclusive and supportive education. NAMI Chicago will continue to work with legislators and stakeholders to ensure this funding is permanent, sustainable, and sufficient for years to come.”

Increased mental health support for our college students comes at a crucial time. One third of all college students have been diagnosed with a mental health condition –  a 14% increase in the last decade – yet only 25% of college students receive treatment despite serious implications. Research shows that graduation rates are lower for students with mental health conditions, especially for Black, Latinx, and low income students and dropout rates are 2.5x higher. Additionally, 89% of college students reported stress or anxiety due to COVID-19 in the Fall of 2020.  

In response, Lily Rocha, Midwest Regional Director for Young Invincibles issued the following statement: 

“This funding victory would not be possible without the young adults whose voices advanced this fight. They courageously stepped up and spoke with state legislators to address the mental health crisis. YI is deeply thankful to State Representative La Shawn K. Ford for his leadership on this issue, as well as State Senator Celina Villanueva for her guidance in the State Senate. This $9 million appropriation represents a critical investment in the lives and futures of students in Illinois, many of whom struggle to complete college when they cannot access mental health services. YI applauds the Illinois General Assembly for stepping up for students and urges state legislators to keep funding the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act in FY24 and beyond.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, House Higher Education Chair Katie Stuart, and House Mental Health & Addiction Chair Deb Conroy have also been vital leaders in the fight for campus mental health funding, advancing hearings with State Rep. Ford in 2021 and 2022 to lay the groundwork for this victory. The late State Senator Scott Bennett championed this funding, and advocates keep him fondly in their thoughts.

“Fighting with NAMI Chicago and students to secure funding for mental health services at public universities was a success,” said State Representative La Shawn K. Ford. “The funding will help make campuses healthier and safer. I’m confident that NAMI and all of their partners will bring long overdue mental health services to students so students can achieve and be all they are meant to be.”

“As many college students are plagued with mental health issues, I find it important to have accessible resources on campuses that will allow them to receive immediate care and treatment without feeling ashamed,” said State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago). “The Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act is a response to the pandemic that left many in compromised states of mind. Allocating funds to support this measure ensures that any student struggling with their mental health does not have to suffer in silence. I will continue to champion legislation that will improve the overall well-being of college students in Illinois.”


About Young Invincibles

Young Invincibles (YI) is a national advocacy organization with offices across the country, including California, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, and New York. YI champions young adults ages 18 to 34 by uplifting their voices and advocating in support of policies that advance young people at the state and federal level. YI informs their advocacy work with quantitative research on issues of higher education, health care, economic security, and civic engagement. For more information, please contact Emma Bittner at (972) 510-3395 or

About NAMI Chicago 

Since 1979, NAMI Chicago has fought for families and individuals impacted by mental health conditions through promoting community wellness, breaking down barriers to mental health care and providing support and expertise for families, professionals and individuals in Chicago and beyond. Guided by the experiences of those living with mental health conditions and rooted in equity, NAMI Chicago educates to fight stigma and discrimination, fiercely advocates for our community, and shares hope, connection and expertise with people on their mental health journey. To learn more, visit