Roughly two weeks after Harvard introduced a new telehealth counseling program, nearly 400 students have registered for the online platform, Harvard University Health Services officials said in an interview Thursday.
Harvard's Counseling and Mental Health Services announced on Oct. 6 that it would partner with TimelyMD to provide a slate of free telehealth services — including 12 individual counseling sessions per academic year and a variety of self-care content — to Harvard students. The announcement coincided with the launch of Harvard’s new campus-wide mental health awareness campaign, titled "We’re All Human."
Since the launch of the program, 398 students across the University have registered for TimelyCare, though not all have scheduled therapy appointments yet, Counseling and Mental Health Services chief Barbara Lewis said.
More than half of students who registered for the service are between the ages of 23 and 29, Lewis said. Thirty-seven percent of the students registered for TimelyCare are Asian or Asian American students, while 29 percent are White, and 10 percent are Black, according to Lewis.
As of Thursday, only 86 of the registered students had met with TimelyCare counselors.
The wait time to get an appointment with a TimelyCare therapist “is usually two days,” Lewis said.
She said she hopes the accessibility of TimelyCare will free up service capacity at CAMHS to allow clinicians to see more students who require treatment in person.
As part of its efforts to expand access to care, CAMHS is also hiring additional staff for its initial consultations — appointments in which clinicians help students seeking care determine the best course of action.
“We did almost 3,000 initial consults last academic year, which is about 1,500 hours,” Lewis said. “By taking the initial consults out of all the clinicians’ schedule, the hope is it opens up those hours to be therapy hours.”
CAMHS hopes to hire four more clinical access coordinators, who are responsible for the initial consultations, Lewis said. CAMHS currently employs two full-time coordinators.
“The work of our committee last year was to look at what was causing a bottleneck,” Lewis said. “How can we get students into care more quickly, at a time when the need was really high?”
HUHS leaders also addressed the following topics in the interview:
HUHS Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen said thousands of students have received vaccines through the vaccination clinics held by the school throughout the fall semester.
The school has administered more than 5,000 flu doses and about 2,300 Covid doses, Nguyen said.
The influenza shot and Covid-19 bivalent booster are both required for student enrollment next spring.
“Covid is not gone, but thankfully it is not causing a lot of severe illness,” he said.
“We know that even though the vast majority of students are not at high risk,” Nguyen added. “Like any community, there are going to be high-risk people who are part of that community, and we want to make sure that the entire community is protected,” Nguyen added.
Calls for Expanded Access to Abortions
Nguyen also discussed a letter to HUHS written by the Harvard College Democrats that called on the University to cover the cost of abortion services for students paying the annual student health fee.
“We have been in touch with the Harvard Dems who reached out to us, and we started a dialogue with them,” Nguyen said. “I want to make sure that students understand that with the student health fee, they do get coverage for general gynecologic care at HUHS as part of their primary care services.”
More robust gynecologic services, including abortions, are offered to students through HUHS’ partnership with Mount Auburn hospital. But this care at the hospital is not covered by the student health fee.
“When we think about some of the services around abortion care, that's where it makes sense to go to places that are providing the services at a higher volume, to be able to do it in a consistent way,” Nguyen said.
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