Director of Counseling and Mental Health Services touts reduced wait times for mental health appointments | News

Barbara Lewis, director of counseling and mental health services, said in an interview that wait times for students seeking mental health care have been reduced.

“In fact, we now have instant access at CAMHS,” said Lewis, who spoke to The Crimson last Wednesday with Jean T. Nguyen, director of Harvard University Health Services.

The changes come after CAMHS hired additional staff specializing in mental health and partnered with TimelyCare, a telehealth counseling program. This follows long-standing complaints from students about long wait times to schedule mental health counseling visits through HUHS.

Lewis said CAMHS met its goal of hiring six access coordinators in the past year. The coordinator will conduct the initial consultation with the student. Consultations can be scheduled by her through the HUHS portal or by phone.

“Our hope is to reduce the wait time for students to enroll, and we’ve actually had quite a bit of success so far,” Lewis said.

With TimelyCare, which HUHS began partnering with in October 2022, 2,785 students had 6,418 telehealth visits as of the end of September. Initial consultations with an access coordinator can be scheduled on the same day, and virtual telehealth appointments require only a 2-3 day wait time.

But Lewis acknowledged that it takes time to schedule an appointment to see a therapist, and students face a wait time of seven to eight days.

Lewis said the new access coordinator conducted nearly 800 initial consultations in August and September alone.

During the interview, Lewis also highlighted the breadth of resources available, including affinity groups, health workshops, unlimited health coaching, guided meditations, and community support forums.

“We want to continue to be available to our students,” Lewis said.

Lewis estimates that CAMHS is currently operating at about 70% capacity while waiting for new employees, with the last new employees expected to join in November.

“Every time we add a new staff member, we free up time,” Lewis said. “Our hope this fall was to really get our students hands-on with CAMHS and provide timely care when wait times for treatment start to get longer.”

Lewis said that while HUHS is looking to hire new staff, it also wants to address the lack of diversity among clinicians. Lewis said CAMHS’ goal is to “get 65% diversity” among its staff.

HUHS currently employs 27 clinicians from African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latinx, Middle Eastern and LGBTQ+ backgrounds, and 25 white clinicians. Lewis added that HUHS is also actively working on other efforts to address diversity training among its staff.

During the interview, Nguyen spoke about the university-wide “We’re All Human” campaign. This is an effort to promote health topics in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students and Harvard Graduate School. The campaign developed a new mental health training module that new students must complete.

“This module provides them with many skills that will help them not only deal with their own mental health concerns, but also support their peers,” Nguyen said of the module, which is available online. Ta.

Nguyen also mentioned HUHS’ efforts to monitor COVID-19 cases.

Although HUHS discontinued COVID-19 contact tracing in December and rescinded the booster vaccination requirement in May, Nguyen said monitoring wastewater data and illnesses diagnosed at emergency centers will help “We are keeping a close eye on the impact of the coronavirus in our local communities.” And at local hospitals.

“It’s a good idea to use new vaccines tailored to the variants of the virus that are currently circulating to ensure thorough prevention,” Nguyen said.

Students can schedule an appointment for the latest Covid-19 booster vaccine through HUHS or a commercial pharmacy.

HUHS will also be holding a flu vaccine clinic at the Smith Campus Center from October 16th to 20th. For students who have not received their annual influenza vaccine, a registration hold will be applied to their accounts by October 25th prior to course registration in November for the Spring 2024 semester.

—Staff writer Alexander I. Fung can be reached at

—Staff writer Tarah D. Gilles can be reached at

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