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New telehealth counseling option set for fall

New+telehealth+counseling+option+set+for+fall

The University is extending on-campus mental health services for the next academic year through a company called TimelyCare. 

TimelyCare is a third-party vendor that offers multiple mental health services 24/7 through mainly remote sessions. TalkNow is a telehealth option for immediate assistance in crisis situations. Not all counselors are licensed medical professionals, so these sessions are not considered therapy sessions. 

Don Robertson, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, discussed the extension of services at the Murray State Budget Town Hall on April 25. As mental health needs increase, the makeup of the campus community is increasingly different, he said.

“What we want to do is implement a pilot program called TimelyCare, which will enhance and supplement our current face-to-face counseling program,” Robertson said. “This will work in coordination with the current services we have that will make counseling more available and accessible, as well as meet the needs of our students.” 

Robertson said this new enhancement will meet numerous mental health needs, especially for those who are constantly traveling. 

“It will allow students who are traveling to have access to counseling, whether it be athletic teams or other organizations that are traveling,” he said. “The big thing is it provides 24/7 coverage, availability- this is particularly important for nights and weekends, holidays and whatever the case may be.”

Sessions are limited to nine per student and any additional sessions required would be charged to the student. Psychiatry appointments through TimelyCare will not cost the student anything out of pocket, but there will be a maximum limit of 320 appointments available for the entire student body and controlled substances cannot be prescribed via TimelyCare or TimelyMD. 

This will all be funded through a $50 increase to the Racer Experience fee that is charged to student accounts each semester. This fee is meant to improve counseling and mental health services provided on campus.

Jackie Dudley, senior vice president of finance and administrative services, said during the Town Hall meeting last month that the Racer Experience fee will increase from $100 to $150 for students taking at least five credit hours on-campus or greater. 

“We implemented this fee last year,” she said. “We are proposing a $50 increase in that fee because of those items discussed by Dr. Robertson. That is not a mandatory fee, because it does not get charged to all students, online students or dual-credit students.”  

Angie Trzepacz, director of University counseling services, said there are both pros and cons to this extended service. 

One of the potential benefits of these services is that online students who live outside of Kentucky would be able to receive free counseling, which we cannot provide currently, because all of our counselors are licensed only in Kentucky,” she said. “The only way that the University can offer these services is by taking away two of our in-house counseling positions to help pay for them.”

Over the past year, two on-campus counselor positions remained vacant. The position itself is a 10-month term and salaries at $30,000 and requires applicants to hold a master’s degree and be a licensed mental health provider in Kentucky. The average salary for this position across the state is $52,000. 

Rather than using the Racer Experience fee funds to raise the salary of these positions, the University administration has opted to sign a $200,000 contract each year to outsource other options. 

Murray State counseling services does already provide a remote option for students that prefer online sessions, but only 5% of students that use counseling services have opted for such sessions. According to Trzepacz’s review of student preferences, there is a larger demand for in-person services for counselors that are already associated with the University and located on campus rather than a strictly telehealth option. 

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About the Contributor
Bri Hunter
Bri Hunter, Chief Copy Editor
Bri Hunter is the Chief Copy Editor at The News. Hunter is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in media production. She also is a service member in the Kentucky Army National Guard. Outside of work and college, Hunter enjoys weight lifting, riding motorcycles, camping and reading a good book while drinking a solid cup of coffee.

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