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Sophie Fund recommends changes to Cornell's mental health policy.

January 23, 2020

Sophie Fund Issues Recommendations to University Mental Health Review Team

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The Sophie Fund, a local mental health advocacy group, presented 22 recommendations to Cornell on Jan. 17, continuing its efforts to implore the University to take more aggressive steps in addressing mental health issues on campus.

“We have concluded that much more needs to be done by institutions of higher education — including Cornell — to address those challenges,” said Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, to the mental health review team.

The full presentation, according to the press release, was given to Cornell’s Mental Health Review Committee, included a comprehensive suicide prevention policy and called for the University to “provide and be held accountable for student mental health resources.”

The suicide prevention policy included calls for better intervention policies for Cornell Health, data collection and suicide prevention training for resident advisors, deans and faculty.

“We hope that the task force’s eventual report will contain plans to make Cornell the ‘gold standard’ for student mental health, and that the administration will implement those plans,” MacLeod said in an interview with The Sun.

Cornell is no stranger to critiques of its mental health care. A 2018 Cornell University initiative called for an expansion of mental health staff and services for existing Cornell Health programs, The Sun previously reported. The push added three therapists to Cornell’s Counseling and Psychological Services, three new positions to Student Disability Services and a broad review of existing mental health efforts.

But despite the University’s efforts, MacLeod and Sophie Fund co-founder Susan Hack, penned a blog post in March, calling Cornell’s plans to reform their mental health system “disappointing,” citing an initial lack of information about the proposed comprehensive review.

In the 2019-2020 academic year, the health office increased the number of free appointments and upped counselor availability, The Sun reported.

“We had observed systemic failure in Cornell mental health policy and practice,” MacLeod said. “We appreciated that [President Martha E. Pollack] agreed to the comprehensive review.”

The mental health review effort is headed by the University mental health review committee, which is made up of students, staff and faculty, as well as an external review team composed of outside professional evaluators, according to its website.