Georgetown students are struggling to receive consistent and cost-effective mental health services during the pandemic. The university’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) along with new telehealth services have attempted to maintain campus resources, but are under criticism by students seeking more permanent and reliable healthcare.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the university has tried to offer mental health resources to the student body. Spread out across the United States and countries abroad, however, CAPS services only extended to students living in states where clinicians are certified. These licensing issues have created a lack of health resources for Georgetown students.
To provide an option for students during a decentralized virtual environment, the university introduced HoyaWell in the spring semester, a new mental health resource to support all degree-seeking students’ emotional wellness. HoyaWell promises round-the-clock telemental health services from anywhere in the United States at no cost to students. HoyaWell offers three services: TalkNow, scheduled counseling, and psychiatry.
Since HoyaWell was implemented in January, students have responded that the platform’s long delays make it an ineffective treatment option. “There have been complaints about last-minute cancellations, the therapists from HoyaWell cutting sessions short, a general inability to find therapists,” Sonya Hu, GUSA’s mental health policy chair, said. “For example, I received an email on February 10 that someone complained of not being able to find a therapist till late March. The service is extremely difficult to the point of it not being useful.”
HoyaWell is a partnership with TimelyMD, a private corporation that specializes in providing Telehealth services to college students. According to Hu, to solve the problems with HoyaWell, the issues have to be addressed with TimelyMD, or Georgetown must switch providers.
“Georgetown is aware of the concerns regarding some students’ experiences with the HoyaWell service. Georgetown is actively working with our new HoyaWell partner to improve their service delivery to meet the needs of our students,” a University spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice. “We as a University value ongoing dialogue on mental health and welcome all feedback on students’ needs in this regard.”
Although former CAPS director Phil Meilman supported GUSA efforts to improve mental health access to students across the nation during the pandemic, his retirement in December of last year left the department led by a three-person interim leadership team.
Outside of CAPS and HoyaWell, Georgetown offers another telehealth service, HealthiestYou. HealthiestYou is available at no cost to international students and domestic students on Georgetown’s student health insurance. Without Georgetown student health insurance, however, HealthiestYou is significantly expensive for students. A general medical visit costs $75 per session, psychotherapy costs $99 per session, and psychiatry and medication management cost $229 for the first visit and $119 for follow-up appointments. While HealthiestYou offers mental health resources to international students, its price continues the issue of treatment exclusion.
“GUSA’s big project was to implement a service like HoyaWell to supplement Georgetown’s lack of health resources. So it’s definitely disappointing that TimelyMD has not been the best resource,” Hu said.