Inter-university partnership to increase mental health services for students The Commonwealth Times

Illustration by Rachel Farzan

Varsha Vasudevan, Staff writer

Students at VCU, Virginia Tech and James Madison University now have access to additional mental health services due to a partnership formed in January with TimelyMD, according to VCU Associate Director of Clinical Services Carolyn Cofill.

Cofill said the universities’ partnership with the virtual medical care company, TimelyMD, is a “necessary addition” to the university’s counseling services because it provides “greater flexibility” in accessing services for students.

The combined university effort seeks to identify similar mental health issues and patterns among university students, according to Cofill.

Cofill said the pandemic has exacerbated mental health stress among people. And 2020 study found that a statistically significant number of students were experiencing increased stress and anxiety due to the pandemic.

Students do not have to go through or receive referrals from university counseling services to access TimelyCare and can do so independently, Cofill said.

VCU senior communication arts major Audrey Hale said that before the partnership, there were a lot of “hoops to jump through” in terms of the number of emails and forms they had to submit to be able to receive mental health services on campus.

“It took me almost a month, eight emails and one phone call and some forms before I actually saw counselors,” Hale said. “It was good. I’ve been through it all. But I feel like if you’re in a bad place, you have to overcome so much if you even get to talk to someone.

Hale said the partnership between VCU, VT and JMU with TimelyMD sounds promising because it can focus more on individual needs.

The main advantage of TimelyCare is that it offers immediate care and attention to students at no cost to students, even when counseling centers on campuses may be closed, according to TimelyMD director of mental health operations Sally Facorzi.

“We’ve also brought our system to a point where students only wait less than five minutes to connect with a TalkNow provider,” Facorzi said.

Facorsi said TimelyMD’s “diverse provider network” of therapists allows students to have more choices when choosing a therapist to work with.

“60% of all our providers identify as BIPOC [Black, Indeginous and people of color] providers and LGBTQ+ informed, faith-based, diverse languages,” Facorsi said. “Students can talk to a provider from different backgrounds, which can help them better connect with a provider.”

TimelyMD Senior Success Manager Abby Waldron said TimelyCare offers resources like TalkNow, an on-demand service where students can speak with a licensed therapist, as part of the partnership.

Other services offered are health literacy, scheduled counseling, personal health coaching, and MedicalNow, an unlimited service for non-emergency mental health services. They are available to all enrolled students, even those studying abroad or in another country, according to Waldron

Waldron said TimelyCare services are currently available to students through the TimelyCare mobile app or website.

“Partnering with TimelyMD is truly an investment in healthier students,” said Waldron. “We’re really ready to serve students, including VCU, and go ahead and encourage them to enroll.”

Chris Wise, assistant vice president of health and wellness at VT, said the partnership is an effort to provide “an exceptional educational experience.”

“Our partnership provides students with a tool to access mental and emotional health services when it works best for their needs, enhancing their ability to succeed and thrive as students and in their lives in and out of school,” said Wise .

Wise said students would benefit more from a university-to-university partnership than a university increasing mental health services on its own.

“By partnering with multiple institutions, we keep institutional costs affordable and can provide more advisor opportunities for students,” Wise said.

Access to TimelyCare Services here.

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