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Santa Monica College Wins Prestigious Mental Health Award

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By Lookout Staff

February 25, 2020 -- Santa Monica College was recognized last weekend as one of the healthiest college campuses in the nation with a 2020 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award, school officials announced Tuesday.

The prestigious award from Active Minds, a leading nonprofit supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults, was announced at the organization's national conference Friday and Saturday in Washington, D.C.

The award recognizes schools that provide access to quality healthcare and "champions institutions that not only serve students’ physical health but give equal priority to mental health," the organization said.

“Santa Monica College stands out because of its comprehensive program to integrate mental health programs into the fabric of student life,” said Alison Malmon, executive director and founder of Active Minds.

“The college is a model for the impact institutions of higher education can have by prioritizing a campus culture that promotes and protects the physical and mental health of its students.”

SMC -- which provides "quality support services" to its more than 30,000 students -- was among five colleges and universities recognized for "demonstrated excellence in prioritizing and promoting the health and well-being of their students," officials said.

The college, said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, ensures that basic needs and physical and mental health are prioritized.”

“This college community has expanded and institutionalized efforts that support student success both inside and outside the classroom," Jeffery said. "That commitment has been actively demonstrated and most recently recognized through this award.”

To qualify for the award, competing schools underwent an extensive application process that included endorsements and interviews.

The winners were chosen by a panel of "prominent researchers and health and higher education experts" who assessed the candidates across eight criteria, officials said.

The panel cited SMC's "wraparound care model," which places physical health, mental health and basic needs under a single director.

“Not all students in need access mental health support or basic needs resources due to the stigma around it,” said SMC Director of Health & Wellbeing Susan Fila.

“SMC’s student health services provides mental health and basic needs screening for all students and provides a warm handoff to mental health providers and resource specialists on campus,” Fila said.

The school was also cited for a "robust food security program" that includes a free lunch voucher program, 10 food closets and a new centralized food pantry, officials said.

The school was also cited for making access a priority through special campus programs that offer services including short-term therapy and case management.

SMC also offers one of 550 Active Minds clubs nationwide that work with the organization to provide "peer-to-peer support at outreach events throughout the academic year," officials said.

These events help "to break down barriers to access and reduce stigma across the campus," officials said.

SMC also was cited for partnering with community based organizations that offer services that include housing support, Cal Fresh enrollment, long-term mental health treatment, group therapy and reproductive health services.

The four other colleges and universities recognized for their "demonstrated excellence" were Skidmore College, University of Arizona, University of Richmond and Denison University.

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