Saddleback College receives funding to address mental health

Your Mind Matters: Breaking Down Barriers for Mental Health Wellness provides outreach for students

InfographicThe California Community College Mental Health Services Grant Program selected Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College as recipients to a multi-district maximum award of $350,000 on Feb. 15. Saddleback College’s Student Health Center will receive $175,000 to provide additional mental health services through the implementation of South Orange County Community College District’s Your Mind Matters: Breaking Down Barriers for Mental Health Wellness’ 26 month work plan.

During both spring and fall semesters in 2017, Saddleback had an average overall attendance of 27,349 students. The Student Health Center estimates that it provided health care services to more than 12,000 students in 2017. The center’s staff assists an average of 25 students daily for mental health care or referrals.   

Saddleback students who have paid their semester health fee are able to be seen by physicians, nurses or mental health therapists at no cost. The Student Health Center also provides same day appointments.  

“It is the mental health that we have to worry about, seriously,” said Terri Whitt, a member on the South Orange County Community College Board of Trustees during a two hour board meeting on Feb. 26. “For Saddleback and IVC to receive $350,000 in a grant is huge and this happened before Florida. We already know those problems. It is serious and we need to recognize it.”


The Student Health Center currently has on staff two part-time medical doctors, a total of four registered nurses and two psychologists. In 2017, the center experienced a 25 percent increase in patients from 2016. The center plans to hire a part-time psychiatrist and a case manager to help address volume increases in student cases as part of its work plan for the grant.

The school district’s Your Mind Matters initiative will provide all Saddleback College staff with new skills to screen and link students to mental health services, as well as LGBTIQ SafeZone training. Students with specific language needs will be able to receive mental health referrals through an on-demand translation service. The center will also screen students for mental health needs through the use of the PHQ-9 or Patient Health Questionnaire.

“Our goal in obtaining this grant is to provide desperately needed mental health wellness support in a safe, confidential, and accessible manner to support our students so they can obtain their educational goals,” said Jeanne Harris-Caldwell, director of student health services in a statement.

A total of 60 California colleges applied for the grant. Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College were one of seven multi-district applications that received the California Community College Mental Health Services Grant Program. The grant’s work plan was a collaboration of a six person team that included Jeanne Harris-Caldwell.

“This grant will have a huge impact in expanding access to students and gives us a significant opportunity to have an open, district-wide convestation by removing the stigma of mental illness and improving suicide awareness, especially for our veteran population,” said Nancy Montgomery, director of the Health and Wellness Center and Veterans Services Center at Irvine Valley College in a statement.

Saddleback College has also applied for the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention grant. Its purpose is to provide funding to higher education institutions to develop an approach that prevents the incidence of suicide and outreach to vulnerable students.