VT, JMU and VCU partner to provide greater mental health

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – On behalf of member institutions of the Virginia Higher Education Procurement Consortium, Virginia Tech, James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University have entered into a system-wide agreement for telehealth and tele-mental health services with TimelyMD.

TimelyMD is the leading virtual health and well-being resource for institutions of higher education and has been trusted to care for more than 1 million college students.

The agreement will provide a big boost to the mental health services JMU is able to provide to its students.

“We don’t have the capacity to keep adding counselors, we can’t find enough people to hire, we just can’t meet the demand. So we’ve been looking at what other options exist and telehealth has been a thing a lot of us have been talking about,” said Dr. Tim Miller, JMU’s vice president of student affairs.

This agreement will bring additional mental health assessment and treatment services to all students at participating colleges and universities at a time when student mental health concerns and needs are increasing across the nation.

Mental health continues to be of particular concern to students and campus leaders. In a recent article from Inside Higher Ed, 14{e577f2e255613ded01a030e42bce2808ed901289218648e026d62c4ad00509a4} of students say their mental health got worse at the start of the pandemic and remained unchanged, while only 10{e577f2e255613ded01a030e42bce2808ed901289218648e026d62c4ad00509a4} said they haven’t had mental health challenges.

Approximately 56{e577f2e255613ded01a030e42bce2808ed901289218648e026d62c4ad00509a4} of students responding said their mental health was fair or poor, nearly one in five students had suicidal ideation, and a staggering three-quarters struggled with anxiety or depression while at college. No matter the numbers, the mental health challenges students experience continue to increase.

“The mental and emotional health of every student, whether they are on campus, with family, or in our larger community is integral to student success at Virginia Tech,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “Learning, and social engagement occurs around the clock in today’s higher education environment, and it’s important to support our students’ educational experience and well-being with accessible mental health coverage.”

TimelyCare serves as a 24/7 virtual extension of campus counseling center resources, with a goal of improving student well-being, engagement and retention.

Through TimelyCare on their phone or other device, students can now select from a wide-ranging menu of virtual care options from licensed counselors and mental health providers– at no cost and without the need to bill costs to traditional insurance – including:

  • On-demand mental health support (TalkNow)
  • Appointment-based mental health counseling
  • Psychiatric support
  • Health coaching
  • Care navigation with basic needs
  • Digital self-care content

In addition, 12 scheduled counseling visits are available at no cost for each student throughout the year.

“To be able to give every student 12 sessions, every single student 24-7 access to crisis counseling, and to be able to do psychiatry is a game-changer for us. I mean that’s really going to meet the needs of students that maybe couldn’t find someone locally to see before, they’re now gonna get 12 sessions,” said Dr. Miller.

Miller told WHSV on Thursday that an added benefit of the agreement is that TimelyCare will match each student who requests a counseling appointment with the right counselor for their individual needs.

“Students will be able to make some choices about what they’re looking for. Someone with maybe shared identities, someone with a similar background. So they’re gonna get matched with people they maybe couldn’t find here in the local community,” he said.

Students will also be able to schedule appointment times throughout the day and night based on what fits their lifestyle and schedule.

Miller said in addition to the exponential addition to mental health resources through the TimelyCare agreement JMU is also extending its fall break by a day and will continue to explore every way possible to help support students and their mental health.

VCU President Michael Rao and JMU President Jonathan Alger also expressed excitement over the agreement.

“Putting the needs of students first means providing an exceptional educational experience with support for total student well-being,” said Michael Rao, President of Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health. “This partnership provides a tool for students to access mental and emotional health services when it works best for their needs, improving their ability to succeed and thrive in their studies and in their lives inside and outside of school.”

Faculty and staff will also have access to support that will empower them to guide students to TimelyCare resources to help students achieve a sense of well-being, live healthier lifestyles and improve their mental health.

“These services will complement what is already provided through our student health and counseling centers,” said JMU President Jonathan Alger. “TimelyCare will be yet another resource to which the university community will have access through a wonderful statewide partnership.”

Services will be available for students starting in the fall 2022 semester.

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