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Notre Dame makes $68 million commitment to fighting mental health crisis; scalable solutions could become national model

The University of Notre Dame is making a historic commitment to fighting the national mental health crisis by bringing together a coalition of benefactors, foundations and other funders who have committed more than $68 million over the past year to develop innovative solutions and expand access to…

The University of Notre Dame is making a historic commitment to fighting the national mental health crisis by bringing together a coalition of benefactors, foundations and other funders who have committed more than $68 million over the past year to develop innovative solutions and expand access to care.

That financial investment will:

  • Fund the creation of the new Veldman Family Psychology Clinic, which will develop scalable, evidence-based solutions in childhood trauma, suicide prevention and substance use.

  • Provide cutting-edge technology that will advance the University’s psychology and neuroscience research.

  • Expand the number of faculty and triple the number of students conducting mental health-related research on campus.

  • Increase mental health services for Notre Dame students through a unique campus partnership among academic and student affairs units.

  • Grow the availability of mental health care in the South Bend region.

The scope of these solutions is expected to have an impact well beyond campus and the local community — University leaders anticipate outcomes from the multidisciplinary work will serve as a future scalable model for other academic and public institutions.

“As we face what some have called a mental health epidemic, Notre Dame is proud to undertake this ambitious initiative in comprehensive mental health care, research and services,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “Thanks to generous benefactors who have joined us in recognizing the need for increased support, we will confront this crisis which plagues students and our local and global communities. Together, we will seek evidence-based, effective and scalable solutions to address the overwhelming demand for mental health diagnoses and treatment, and help train the next generation of mental health professionals.”

Notre Dame identified mental health as one of several priorities in its strategic framework for the next decade, and announced the Veldman Family Psychology Clinic in January as a first step in that commitment. Today’s announcement further builds on this strategy with details of how research and services will expand at the clinic and on campus.

Through the new clinic, faculty and graduate students from the Department of Psychology will increase mental health care capacity and access for community members, while also researching trauma, suicide prevention and substance abuse, three root causes of the mental health crisis. The goal is to develop innovative solutions that will become scalable treatment models across the country.

This investment is the start of the commitment that will enable Notre Dame to help mitigate the shortage of mental health professionals by increasing the number of senior psychology faculty, tripling the number of clinical psychology graduate students and enhancing the experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate psychology majors.

The treatment capacity of the Veldman Family Psychology Clinic on Hill Street will significantly grow in the coming years, eventually serving more than 1,500 people in the South Bend community annually through mental health assessment, intervention and prevention services. The growth will significantly reduce the current clinic’s wait list and eventually eliminate the wait list for care.

The funding will also provide world-class equipment not currently available to local researchers and providers.

One of the most notable advancements will be the implementation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology. The equipment, which is atypical for universities without medical schools to own and operate, is a specialized form of MRI used to examine the brain’s functional anatomy.

“The addition of the fMRI machine to our clinical and research operations will greatly improve the speed and capabilities of our faculty to identify and help make an impact on the current mental health crisis,” said Sarah Mustillo, the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “Now, instead of traveling out of the region to use this equipment elsewhere, our faculty will have access to the technology right here in South Bend. This level of access will be a game-changer for our research innovations and patient outcomes.”

The impact of the new clinic will be felt not only in the community and academic circles, but also on campus. With growing collaborations and partnerships among University faculty and administrators, the mental health initiatives are expected to have a significant effect on Notre Dame student mental health care.

On campus, the Division of Student Affairs, under the direction of Vice President Rev. Gerard Olinger, C.S.C., will expand resources to meet the growing mental health care needs of students at an earlier stage, specifically at the University’s Center for Student Support and Care, the University Counseling Center and the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being.

Measurable outcomes anticipated include a decrease in the number of students seeking care for acute or crisis-level needs over the next five years, a designated care and wellness consultant embedded in every college and an increase in the number of students working with care and wellness consultants.

“With mental health standing as one of the defining crises of our times, Notre Dame has a distinct opportunity to transform what holistic mental health care looks like and to serve as a beacon for others involved in this work,” Father Olinger said. “We continue to look for and implement innovative solutions to meet our students where they are in their mental health care journeys, ultimately seeking to implement care at an earlier stage of need.”

Notre Dame’s commitment to solving mental health care issues stems from the University’s identity as a Catholic research institution.

“By caring for the mental health needs of students on campus and advancing psychological training and research, Notre Dame can realize in practice what we are called to do in our mission — be a force for good and a place of service and community,” said John T. McGreevy, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost.

“This multidisciplinary focus on innovative research and advanced care is just the beginning of how Notre Dame will address the mental health crisis not only on our campus but also nationally.”

 

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