Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) President Terrence Cheng today announced that, beginning in the fall 2021 semester, students at Connecticut’s community colleges will have access to free, 24/7, telehealth options to provide health and counseling services.
Through a partnership with the telehealth company TimelyMD, students will have the opportunity to connect, any time, from anywhere, with clinicians and providers specifically trained to meet the needs of the community college population.
“Access to health services – and particularly mental health services – has long been a major challenge for too many community college students,” President Cheng said. “By utilizing telehealth technology, students will now have the opportunity to easily and safely get the care they need from practitioners with specific expertise on meeting the unique needs of college students. This is a major expansion of mental health services, and it is sure to make the college experience more manageable for the students we serve.”
“In recent years, the demand for student mental health supports has increased dramatically,” Connecticut State Community College Interim President David Levinson said. “We have taken some very important steps, including partnerships with local providers. However, this is the largest systemic investment to date and will provide much-needed access to critical health care services to all of our students.”
TimelyMC surveyed more than 1,300 college students nationwide earlier this year to see how they were faring one year after the pandemic forced schools to close and, unfortunately, four out of five said they continue to experience increased stress and/or anxiety. They were especially concerned with the quality of their education and issues stemming from social isolation, according to Executive Director Dr. Janice A. Hall.
“As students learn to navigate what a ‘new normal’ feels like in society and on campus, the transition back may be difficult for some,” Hall told DiverseEducation. “Colleges and universities that heavily promote their well-being efforts with a culture of caring will be best positioned to address the chasm we have in student mental health.”
She added that “As declining undergraduate enrollment has indicated, community colleges have by far been the most impacted sector. Not only do the needs of community college students differ sharply from those at four-year institutions, but so should the programs designed to support them.”
Angelo Simoni, CSCU’s Senior Executive Director for Student Relations indicates the two-year agreement between CSCU and TimelyMD entitles every Connecticut community college student to unlimited access to TalkNow, an on-demand mental health support system, unlimited health consultations, as well as 12 scheduled individual counseling sessions per year.
The two-year annual contract costs $659,223 and is funded with federal COVID-19 relief money. “Our institutions are very excited to begin partnering with TimelyMD this fall to help address the mental health effects from COVID-19 on our students across our 12 campuses,” Simoni said.
Earlier this year, Community College Review, a national website, reported that as the number of students enrolled in community college grew rapidly in the 2000s nationwide, counseling centers at those institutions had difficulty keeping pace with demand for services. According to research by the American College Counseling Association (ACCA), just 73 percent of community colleges provide mental health counseling services on campus.
A national study published by the American Psychiatric Association in March 2021 found “Analyses by age group revealed significantly higher prevalence (or mental health problems) for community college students ages 18–22 years, relative to their same-age peers at 4-year institutions. Community college students, particularly those from traditionally marginalized backgrounds, were significantly less likely to have used services, compared with students on 4-year campuses. Financial stress was a strong predictor of mental health outcomes, and cost was the most salient treatment barrier in the community college sample.”
CSCU expects to formally launch the service for students at the start of the semester. To learn more about TimelyMD, visit timely.md/for-schools/.