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President Drake’s Mental Health Task Force meets for the first time Friday

Casey Kaiser (left), a third-yearin psychology, and Samantha Woodring (right), a second-year in English and philosophy, tape mental health flyers on the Neil Ave. Garage. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

University President Michael Drake’s mental health task force, including students, faculty and staff, will meet for the first time Friday to begin discussing improvements to services and resources on campus.

There will be four current students on the 10-person task force: Shamina Merchant, the Undergraduate Student Government president; Ziv Bell a graduate student studying psychology; and Sarah Gartner is a third-year in professional medicine and Jordan Moseley, the undergraduate member of Ohio State’s Board of Trustees.

“[The task force] wants to find tangible action steps we can take as a university to make sure students are getting the resources that they need, in regards to mental health,” said Merchant, a third-year in information systems. “From my understanding, the goal of this task force is to try and incorporate as many voices as possible and bring them to the table, and that includes having potential listening sessions with students and making sure all the stakeholders voices are heard as we move forward.”

Ben Johnson, a spokesman for Ohio State, said more specifics will likely be released as the task force begins its work.

Merchant and USG Vice President Shawn Semmler met with Drake last week to discuss what they would like to see come from the task force, as representatives for the student body.

“What was made clear when [Shamina and I] sat down with President Drake was tangible, but also substantial action should come out of this,” Semmler, a third-year in finance, said.

The USG leaders said they are encouraged by the 60-day deadline, which would occur in the middle of summer, and are hopeful the task force’s recommendations can begin to be implemented for the fall.

“In the fall we can start addressing [the improvements] immediately because, frankly, this isn’t an issue we can afford to wait on,” Semmler said.

In a statement released April 13,  Drake said he wants the task force to focus on what the university does well, what they can do better, and what “national best practices” can be used regarding the mental health services and suicide prevention efforts, but it is still unclear what exactly they will evaluate.

The task force will be co-chaired by Eileen Ryan, interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, and Javaune Adams-Gaston, senior vice president for Student Life, who are expected to provide recommendations for improvement to Drake within 60 days.

Update, 5:31 p.m.: this article has been updated with information on two more current students on the task force.

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