Ohio State President Michael Drake said Thursday that he’s ready to move forward with a plan to improve the mental health services the university offers students.
In an interview with The Lantern, Drake said he met with the members of a mental health task force Ohio State created in April to look at its final report of recommendations and to begin a new phase of work with a group he called the “implementation force.”
“I have just a draft of it now, but we’re putting together an implementation force, people who now are going to take the report and are going to move forward with achieving as many of the recommendations as are practical and possible as soon as we can,” Drake said in an interview with The Lantern.
Drake said the implementation force will consist of students, faculty and staff, which was the same composition as the mental health task force.
Drake announced the creation of the mental health task force in April to create a report of recommendations for improvements to services and resources on campus, giving the group 60 days to complete the report.
The formation of the task force was announced shortly after two deaths related to falls from parking garages in April.
However, the group struggled to find time to convene over the summer, so they did not meet the original 60-day time frame.
“What happened was that we appointed the task force right before the summer, and then lots of students and members of the task force found it difficult to work together,” Drake said. “We had a goal, but since we started in late April, pretty soon it was summertime so it took a little longer to get things done.
A report providing an overview of the task force’s progress was released in June, stating the final report would come at the beginning of autumn semester. The final report was released on Sept. 11, hours after a student fell from the Lane Avenue Parking garage.
“We accept the report in its totality; it had only good ideas in it,” Drake said. “Now we will be in the process of prioritizing them, those things that are most important and most doable, we’ll try to get to right away.”
The report was broken down into six main points with each providing recommendations for action to be taken in the short term and the long term.
Drake said that the recommendations made by the task force would require different amounts of time to implement, but that many changes are already underway.
Following the release, Ohio State announced the closure the Ohio Union South and Lane Avenue garages’ rooftops on Sept. 18 to begin review for safety enhancements. The recommendations included action for review of the physical structures of the garages.
Over the summer, three additional counselors were hired in the Counseling and Consultation Services, Drake said.
“I’d say that the report prompted a great discussion among people on campus about things that we might be able to do, things we’re doing that work well, and things that we might be able to do to work better and how we might implement those things,” Drake said. “I thought the report was quite thoughtful.”
Drake said there is often confusion as to what services CCS provides, and the office is meant to be an additional resource to the mental health system.
“CCS is an adjunct to that health system thats available for students to help with counseling and guidance for more episodic issues that’s generally a lower acuity or lower severity not as chronic not needing things that are as serious.”
Drake noted that one of the challenges that Ohio State faces is that there are so many resource outlets available, students may not always know where to start.
“It’s sometimes difficult, particularly as you first enter, to decide which service is the right one for you,” Drake said. “One of the things I think we will be able to do a better job of is, particularly using input from lots of people, make it easier for people who are encountering the system for the first time to be clear about where their best options are.”
Drake said that all of the systems and resources that are currently in place work reasonably well, given the sheer size of the student population at Ohio State.
“This is an area of great need for everyone all the time,” Drake said. “We have many things that other [universities] don’t have. When I say that we have a full service system, we have as much as a full mental inpatient hospital on campus. It’s extraordinarily rare that that’s the case.”
A concept that was emphasized in the mental health task force’s report was cultivating a “culture of care” in the Ohio State community. When asked if this culture would be grown from the top-down or from the bottom-up, Drake said it should be both.
“I want us to all take care of each other,” Drake said. “What we do is look at things we can try to do to help us be a healthier community in whatever that means. It’s all those things together because it’s trying to help us be healthier.”