to gauge demand by area code,” Ganley says. “That
then allows us to deploy resources when they’re
available to a particular area if there’s a very high
percentage of use in a given region. It’s a data tool
that can be used to help inform decisions.”
The Crisis Text Line partnership is just one of
many ways California's community colleges are
meeting the demand for mental health services.
Out of the 114 schools in the system, 70 have
brick-and-mortar health centers that provide
early intervention services, depression screen-
ing, and some level of mental health therapy.
“Based on our research we’ve identified 90 of the
California community colleges that specifically
outline on their website that they offer mental
health counseling to students,” Ganley says. “I’ve
been working in this space for the better part of 15
years, and if you asked me this question 10 years
ago—how many of the community colleges in
California are offering mental health services—it
would have been a very different conversation.”
Ganley credits the expansion of mental health
services to the passage of Proposition 63, now
known as the Mental Health Services Act, in 2004.
In 2008, the state’s community colleges received
just over $10 million of the funds created by that
act as a onetime funding opportunity to establish
mental health services within the system. “A lot
of what we see happening today is an outgrowth of
what happened back then. We did grant-making
with the colleges, we offered statewide suicide
prevention gatekeeper training, we provided
technical assistance to the colleges,” Ganley says.
Community colleges have continued to receive
support for providing mental health services in
recent California state budgets, with $4.5 million in
2017-2018 and $10 million in 2018-2019.
Ganley attributes the rising demand for mental
health services among students in her state in part
to the work the community colleges have done to
increase awareness and reduce stigma since 2008.
She also notes the rise in cost of living, educa-
tion, and the housing crisis as factors that affect
students’ well-being. “I think that’s a variable that
contributes to stress, anxiety, and depression for
a lot of students,” she says. “This is a time when
students oftentimes are not nestled in their family.
It’s their first time being on their own.”
In a recent survey of 40,000 California commu-
nity college students, 50 percent of the students
indicated they had been food insecure in the
previous 30 days, 60 percent reported they had
been housing insecure in the previous year, and 19
percent indicated they had been homeless in the
previous year. “We know intuitively that a student
who is not doing well physically or mentally is not
going to do as well as they could in school. Just like
we know that a student who is chronically hungry
or is uncertain about where they’re going to sleep
at the end of the day—that’s going to impact their
academic success,” Ganley says.
Aside from the Crisis Text Line and counseling
centers on many campuses, the colleges also have
access to a free, web-based suicide prevention
gatekeeper training called Kognito. “Faculty are
uniquely positioned to identify students who may
be in distress or who may be in crisis because
they’re with the students often,” Ganley says.
It provides skill building for trainees to learn
about starting a conversation with somebody
they’re worried about and how to refer them to
appropriate services. More than 90,000 commu-
nity college faculty, staff and students have been
trained so far.
“The evolution of what the colleges have put
in place is astronomical,” Ganley says. “I’m really
proud of all of their work and feel fortunate to work
There has been an
increase of students
at Flathead Valley
Community College in