CAPS Partner Increases NWA Mental Health Access
ThrivingCampus is a database that helps students, faculty and staff find available mental health providers in the area. ThrivingCampus accepts 115 insurance plans and offers 75 specialties.
Even after doubling capacity at UA Counseling and Psychological Services, staff schedule up to 15 new appointments daily and are full almost weekly, Pat Walker Health Center staff said. More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed as having a mental illness during their lifetime and one in five will experience a mental illness in a given year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Expanding the Health Center was something we had been focused on since 2004 when we realized we exhausted our space,” said Zac Brown, the assistant director of communications at the Pat Walker Health Center.
Long-term mental health care is available to UA students, faculty and staff this semester with a new CAPS partner. CAPS staff connected with ThrivingCampus over the summer to increase mental health access, Brown said.
ThrivingCampus is a database that lists available mental health care providers in the area. Users have access to 75 different specialties that include anxiety, depression, internet addiction and body image.
Users can choose specific qualities such as gender, language, race and religion when finding mental health care on ThrivingCampus.
“Being able to narrow that focus down and find that correct mental health provider is going to lead to a much better relationship,” Brown said. “It will put students at a lot more ease.”
Clinicians can list their services for free, but they are screened for valid licenses, said Melissa Atkinson, clinical case manager for CAPS.
ThrivingCampus was introduced for students to have easier access finding clinicians, Atkinson said. Previously, staff used a 207-page Microsoft Word document database of clinicians in the area.
“It’s clunky, difficult to use and dated,” Atkinson said. “We don’t know in real time which community provider has availability, if they’re still paneled with that insurance or even still in practice.”
ThrivingCampus accepts 115 insurance plans. CAPS does not accept any, but the rates are “unbelievably lower than what they are in the community,” said Mary Alice Serafini, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, executive director of Pat Walker Health Center.
At CAPS, an initial psychiatric consultation is $85 and a follow-up is $40. Regular counseling is $20 a session after the initial assessment.
“When a student says ‘that is way over the top’, we immediately do a budget review with them to see how much they can afford to pay,” Serafini said. “We don’t want anybody to go without care.”
Private care can range from $75 to $275, depending on insurance coverage.
The UofA employs 18 full-time clinicians and two part-time psychiatrists at CAPS, Serafini said. The ratio of clinician to student is 1-to-1,500 at CAPS, she said. This meets the recommended standard set by the International Association of Counseling Services, Inc.
“In a perfect world, we would have enough clinicians to see every student; that’s not realistic,” Brown said. “With mental health having a high demand and lower supply, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help as many students that are looking for mental health services.”
The CAPS staff workload increases as the semester continues, Brown said. Staff try to keep the waiting period under two weeks. Most students get an appointment within a few days.
“There becomes a period of time when we don’t have the availability. If we can’t meet the need then we can help find a community provider who can,” Atkinson said.
ThrivingCampus is used by universities nationally. Students can search for mental health care near other partnering schools.
“One of the nice aspects of this program is that if a student from Texas wanted to find mental health care outside of northwest Arkansas, we have access to all the area universities that are partnered with ThrivingCampus,” Brown said.
The UA Registered Student Organizations, Active Minds and the Mental Health Awareness Organization promote positive mental health on campus. A Mental Health Resource Fair is scheduled at 11 a.m. Oct. 10 in the Arkansas Union.
The Pat Walker Health Center pays $750 annually to provide ThrivingCampus for students, faculty and staff, Serafini said. Users can get access to ThrivingCampus for free with the link on the Pat Walker Health Center website.