Dell Medical School and Austin Community College unite to open mental health clinic

Molly Mcilhinney, General News Reporter

The Amplify Center, a product of a partnership between Dell Medical School and Austin Community College, opened on Feb. 9 at ACC’s Eastview Campus. The center, a subpart of Dell Medical School’s clinical practice UT Health Austin, provides mental health services for ACC students.

“We’ve always had mental health challenges, but with the pandemic, I think it has really significantly gotten worse,” said Ruth Reinhart, ACC associate vice chancellor of student support services. “There’s a big need for this kind of support.” 

The Amplify Center was created to “redesign mental health services to make them more accessible, engaging and relevant to young people,” according to the UT Health Austin website. Reinhart said if students have milder mental health needs, ACC’s regular clinical counseling team will assist them instead.

Reinhart said students who show onset symptoms of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia would receive help at the Amplify Center, while students who suffer from anxiety would be serviced at ACC’s regular clinic. 

Since its opening less than two weeks ago, Reinhart said operations have been successful and helpful.

“(Staff at the Amplify Center) are busy,” Reinhart said. “I think they were a little surprised because our student population is quite different than UT’s student population … It’s been very important for us to have that to support our students in that space. It’s been great, we’re very grateful for our partnership because we know it’s really going to help our students.”

Dell Medical School opened the center as a pilot program with the goal to duplicate and expand throughout Austin, said Deborah Cohen, executive director of the center. 

While care through the Amplify Center is currently free, the center plans to begin billing insurance while aiming to keep services at a low cost, said Cohen, co-director for Dell Medical School’s Center for Youth Mental Health.

“What we’re working on right now is the financial sustainability of the model,” Cohen said. “And so that is what will determine if we’re able to extend out to a larger community.” 

While Dell Medical School funded the clinic through grants and philanthropy such as donations from the Susan and Michael Dell Foundation, Reinhart said ACC provided Dell Medical School with the office space for the Amplify Center. 

“Mental health used to be a stigma, and I’m very proud of our society that we’re talking more and more about it,” Reinhart said. “Giving students the access and letting them know that we care … is really important.”