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TimelyCare: Extending Beyond the Traditional in Service to Texas Students

By Jessica Garcia
UT System Communications Intern

Close up of stacked notebooks with a stethoscope on top next to a hand resting on a book by a laptop

As part of The University of Texas System’s commitment to provide students with comprehensive mental health services, all 14 UT institutions are providing free, virtual mental health support, starting this fall.

In partnership with Fort Worth-based TimelyCare, the initiative gives students 24/7 access to a wide-ranging menu of virtual care options from licensed counselors, including on-demand mental health and emotional support, scheduled mental health counseling sessions, psychiatry services and more.

“There is a growing demand from college students for mental health services on their campuses," Chris Brownson said. Brownson oversees the implementation of health and well-being initiatives throughout the UT System. “TimelyCare offers hours that extend beyond the traditional operating hours that many of our counseling centers have, including weekends. It's very convenient for students.”

The partnership with TimelyCare is part of a $16.5 million data-driven investment from the UT Board of Regents over the next five years to expand student mental health and safety and other alcohol and drug education resources at all UT academic and health institutions.   

More than half of undergraduate students who considered dropping out cited emotional stress as their reason, according to a recent report by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation.

Brownson, the associate vice president for health and well-being and director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center at UT Austin, said that the number of students seeking mental health services increased about 10 percent per year on his campus in the 10 years before the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020. The pandemic dramatically increased demand for mental health services.

"Rates of suicide, depression and anxiety all seem on the rise," said Brownson, who cited problems related to discrimination, trauma, financial concerns and the pandemic as some of the root causes of mental health issues.

Free, virtual mental health support will make it easier for students to quickly and confidentially find the help they need when they otherwise might not because of the stigma attached to seeking mental health support – especially for college students.

“People sometimes know that they need help, but they’re intimidated by going to a person they don’t know and asking for it,” said Kaitlyn Marsh, a UT Austin student and co-director of the Student Government Mental Health Agency on her campus. “Having that virtual option and being able to do telehealth appointments is groundbreaking.”

Brownson said the TimelyCare partnership will help UT institutions expand the mental health services they already offer students, such as the after-hours hotline that students can call when experiencing a mental health crisis.

The program has proven successful. Since it started in 2015, the crisis line has received more than 37,000 calls from students, with 7,725 classified as urgent calls. According to Brownson, "a life-saving intervention" occurred in 652 calls.

Overall mental health funding from the UT Regents has created programs such as web-based alcohol education and sexual assault and harassment prevention for students, training for faculty and staff, and the free mobile app, “Thrive at UT,” designed to enhance student well-being and help students navigate through challenging times.

"This allocation that the Board has given us allows us to do a lot of really good things on our campuses together," Brownson said. "The great thing about us doing it all together is that we learn from each other and build on each other's good ideas from things going on at all the different campuses.”

About The University of Texas System

The University of Texas System has enhanced the lives of Texans and individuals worldwide through its commitment to education, research and healthcare for 140 years. With 14 institutions collectively enrolling over 254,000 students, the UT System stands as one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions annually produce over 66,000 graduates and award more than one-third of the undergraduate degrees in Texas, as well as over 60% of the state's medical degrees. The combined efforts of UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics resulted in over 10.7 million outpatient visits and more than 2 million hospital days last year. The UT System’s $3.8 billion research enterprise is one of the nation’s most innovative and ranks No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation for federal research expenditures. The UT System has an operating budget of $29.1 billion for fiscal year 2024 and employs more than 116,000 faculty, health care professionals, support staff and student workers.