Over the summer, the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury proposed rules to amend current regulations for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008, with a goal to better ensure that people seeking coverage for mental health and substance use disorder care can access treatment as easily as people seeking coverage for medical treatments.

The MHPAEA aims to ensure equal access to mental health and substance use disorder care by preventing private health insurance companies from imposing stricter requirements on these benefits compared to medical and surgical benefits. However, barriers to accessing mental health and substance use disorder care persist despite the law.

ACE and 18 other higher education groups sent a letter last week to the Department of Labor to educate and focus the regulators on the issue of college student mental health, which hasn’t received the same level of attention as youth mental health at the K- 12 levels.

“Students still have significant mental health needs after they leave high school and enroll in higher education, the group wrote. “This is a very transitional period of life for most traditional college-aged students: the first time living away from their families, finding a sense of community in an overwhelming environment, and balancing a heavy workload. For nontraditional students, many balance full-time work obligations, family responsibilities with children and spouses, and are adjusting to the demanding schedule of being a college student. Graduate students also have unique needs and a distinct set of challenges that impact their mental health and well-being. Mental health is a campus-wide responsibility, so a collaborative approach to addressing organizational change is key to alleviating the barriers and systems that further exacerbate the mental health crisis, and this is especially acute for historically underrepresented students and students of color.”

The associations requested that each regulating agency explore ways to support the delivery of behavioral health services to college students. This support could involve leveraging telehealth services and potentially incorporating these priorities into their budget recommendations. They also urged the administration to recommend that Congress take action to address the mental health challenges faced by college students.