On April 16, 2007, in two separate attacks on the Virginia Tech campus, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many others before killing himself. Less than one year later, the Virginia General Assembly responded with sweeping legislation aiming to enhance mental health services, reform the civil commitment process, and improve campus security across the Commonwealth. Several years later, believing the time was ripe for a comprehensive study of mental health services and crisis response on Virginia’s campuses, the Joint Commission on Health Care commissioned the Virginia College Mental Health Study.
The resulting study actually began in October 2009 under the direction of a steering committee, whose members included Christopher Flynn, director of the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech; Jim Stewart, then Inspector General for Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Professor John Monahan of the University of Virginia, an expert on empirical research in mental health law; Diane Strickland, a former Circuit Court judge and member of the Governor’s Panel on the Virginia Tech Shootings; Jim Reinhard, then Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; Ron Forehand, Deputy Attorney General; and, Susan Davis, an experienced lawyer who also serves as a student affairs officer at UVA. Joanne Rome, a staff attorney in the Supreme Court, served as liaison from the Supreme Court and the Commission on Mental Health Law Reform.
The Steering Committee oversaw the activities of two task forces, one on Legal Issues in College Mental Health, chaired by Susan Davis, and a second on Access to Mental Health Services by College and University Students, chaired by Christopher Flynn. Task Force membership was drawn from Virginia colleges and universities of varying sizes and locations, both public and private. The task force members identified the subjects requiring further investigation and appointed work groups to study the issues and develop proposals. In addition, the Virginia College Mental Health Survey was conducted during the spring and summer of 2010 with a full report being presented to the Joint Commission on September 7, 2010. Over the ensuing year, the task forces studied the survey results, deliberated, and formulated their findings, conclusions and recommendations. Their combined report follows.
It should be emphasized that the conclusions and recommendations in this report represent the opinions and positions of the members of the task forces and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employers and sponsoring organizations, the members of the Steering Committee, or the members of the Joint Commission. Further, the report has not been reviewed by, and therefore not approved by, any of the Commonwealth’s governing bodies for higher education.