UT System announces partnership to bring students free, virtual mental health care

Mason Rouser, Senior News Reporter

As part of an investment to expand student mental health services, the UT System announced a new program last week to provide students across all 14 UT institutions with virtual and free mental health support. The program launches this fall. 

The initiative is a partnership with TimelyCare, a virtual mental health and well-being provider engineered to improve student mental health at higher education institutions. The partnership will give students access to on-demand mental health and emotional support, scheduled mental health counseling sessions, psychiatry services, health coaching, care navigation, peer community support and digital self-care content at no extra cost. 

“One of the positive things that’s occurred over the past (several) years is acceptance of mental health resources, and what we’re seeing as a great trend is students helping their peers identify the need and pointing them to resources,” said Luke Hejl, CEO and co-founder of TimelyCare. “So our objective at TimelyCare is to really partner with the institution … it’s important that we do everything that we can to integrate with them, to work with them in the way that we are helping students.” 

Chris Brownson, the associate vice president for health and well-being at University Health Services and the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said TimelyCare’s services would not replace what UT provides but will increase mental health service accessibility for those who need it. Brownson said the partnership would also give students who receive care a more diverse range of people to speak with to better address their needs, something TimelyCare specifically includes in their approach.

“(Students) have the ability to read the profiles of the providers and identify someone who may look like them or who may have clinical experience in an area that’s important to them,” Hejl said. “Whether that be someone who is part of or has a lot of experience working with the LGBTQ+ community or someone that is experienced and confident in working with faith-based needs, the whole spectrum of those things are critically important to make sure that we have the right resources available for students.”

Akshara Kolli, president of the UT chapter of Active Minds, a mental health organization, said the TimelyCare partnership would particularly benefit students with financial difficulties or histories of familial issues.

“There are a lot of stressors within (a college student’s) life; college for most people is the first time that they’re living alone, first time that they’re supporting themselves by working their own job,” Kolli said. “So it’s really important that we, as students, address these issues before (we) leave college and these issues turn into bigger problems.”

Brownson said mental health is a primary predictor of student success and that it is essential to help students work through mental health issues to meet academic goals. 

“But more than just being academically successful … we want students here to be healthy and to be thriving and to be able to be the best versions of themselves,” Brownson said. “Tuning into those personal issues and challenges and taking care of ourselves in that way is also just an important life skill to build on.”

Hejl said the program would be soft launched this summer at select UT System institutions before a full launch this fall. Brownson said he anticipates the program will come to UT in July.