Using Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for Mental Health Initiatives

On May 19, 2022, the US Department of Education released an FAQ, Using Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Institutional Portion Grant Funds to Meet the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Needs of Students, to provide additional guidance on the allowable uses of HEERF toward mental health services and substance use disorder services and supports for students, staff, and faculty.

Below are five steps to consider when designing and implementing your plan to improve mental health services and address substance use disorder needs at your institution.

Design a plan for your Institution

What types of mental health support will be most beneficial to your institution? Consider the following support resources as an example:

  • Additional mental health professionals
  • Telehealth
  • Call or text hotlines
  • Peer support groups
  • Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)
  • Gatekeeper or suicide prevention training
  • Wellness activities

Dive into the Details

Develop a detailed plan to accomplish your goals of improving mental health at your institution. This can be short-term, long-term, completely new, or an expansion of services.

Consider if your university would benefit from any of on the following list.

  • Create a committee with the mission to plan for long-term solutions that address mental health challenges.
  • Recruit a suicide prevention coordinating committee that will work to develop on-campus resources and a suicide response plan.
  • Offer peer support programs with students trained to support other students and assist with connecting at-risk individuals with the counseling center and crisis hotlines.
  • Improve mental health literacy by offering mental health first aid classes and materials to faculty and staff.
  • Provide 24/7 online mental health counseling services to students to ensure they have access to counseling resources, regardless of time of day.
  • Hire additional mental health counselors, social workers, and mental health staff, including 24/7 crisis support.

Understand the Timeline

To assist and support higher education institutions, the Department of Education recently extended the HEERF grant period of performance through June 30, 2023.

When considering your timeline, you’ll have to:

  • Calculate the amount of remaining available institution portion of HEERF.
  • Understand timeline restrictions given the deadline of June 30, 2023—a limited timeline for starting mental health improvements determined to be most beneficial to your institution.

Provide Resources

Once you’ve a developed plan, understand timeline restrictions for the period of performance, and know the remaining portion of available resources, it’s time to implement your plan.

As you execute your plan remember to do the following:

  • Develop or update a strategy and plan for fund expenditures.
  • Consider the rules for allowable costs and verify you have controls in place to ensure compliance.
  • Make any initial investments in high-impact mental health projects. Consider providing basic needs, like childcare, food, housing, transportation, and health care, that can factor into mental health challenges.

Reporting Requirements

Continue to report expenditures of the HEERF grants on a quarterly and annually basis, as previously performed, using the Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Reporting Form. Mental health expenditures should be reported with the “Other uses of (a)(1) Institutional Portion funds,” section, and describe the improvements to mental health services.

We’re Here to Help

For more information about COVID-19 funding relief available to higher education institutions, or changes to HEERF grants, contact your Moss Adams professional.

You can also visit our Higher Education Practice for additional insights.

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