Virginia Universities Expand Virtual Mental Health Services

James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech are partnering with TimelyMD to offer virtual mental health services to students.
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  • Students will have access to online mental health services as part of the partnership with TimelyMD.
  • Roughly 80% of all visits to TimelyMD's virtual TimelyCare platform this year have been for mental health.
  • That figure was just 10% before the pandemic.

Three Virginia universities are partnering with a telemental health provider to offer free counseling visits to students starting this fall.

James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech will work with TimelyMD, a Fort Worth, Texas-based telehealth company focused on higher education, to offer online counseling and mental health services to students, according to a release.

That partnership will include on-demand mental health support, 12 scheduled counseling visits at no cost for each student throughout the year, health coaching, and other services.

TimelyMD's TimelyCare platform "serves as a 24/7 virtual extension of campus counseling center resources, with a goal of improving student well-being, engagement and retention," according to the release.

"Putting the needs of students first means providing an exceptional educational experience with support for total student well-being," Michael Rao, president of Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health, said in the release. "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."

James Madison University President Jonathan Alger described TimelyCare as "yet another resource" that will "complement what is already provided through our student health and counseling centers."

And Virginia Tech President Tim Sands underscored the importance of mental health to higher education in the release.

"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," Sands said. "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 is already widely used across the country, according to a TimelyMD release: One in 10 community college students have access to the company's virtual mental health platform, and TimelyMD has partnered with more than 200 institutions.

Additionally, the average wait time for TalkNow — TimelyCare's on-demand mental health service — is 5-10 minutes.

The TimelyCare platform has seen a surge in mental health visits since the onset of the pandemic, according to the TimelyMD release. Roughly 80% of all TimelyCare visits have been for mental health so far in 2022. Before the pandemic, that figure was just 10%. Many of those visits occur after-hours and on weekends, according to the release.

"We are grateful for the campus leaders who trust us to provide equitable, on-demand medical care, mental health counseling and basic needs services to their students," TimelyMD CEO and co-founder Luke Hejl said in a release. "It's been two years since telehealth adoption became a norm in higher education, and the demand has never been greater."

Students' mental health has been a high priority for higher education and national leadership as the country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a fall 2021 survey by the American Council on Education, 68% of college and university presidents listed the mental health of students as a top concern.

The Department of Education in May issued a memo encouraging institutions to use Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants to support their students' mental health needs.

Last April, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced nearly $35 million to strengthen mental health support for children and young adults. HHS funds seven grant programs, including the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention program, which will distribute $2.2 million for mental health services at up to 22 colleges and universities.