AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Over the years, officials with Amarillo College have implemented various programs aimed at helping students overcoming barriers to achieving higher education. The college recently announced a new program, helping students and their dependents with providing a more comprehensive and equitable resource for their mental health and medical needs.

Officials with the college released information regarding a new virtual healthcare plan for the college’s students and their dependents, a program the college’s Board of Regents unanimously approved during a recent meeting.

According to a news release from Amarillo College, students and their dependents will be able to access TimelyCare, a new virtual healthcare plan, for free. This virtual teleservice is accessible to students when they are enrolled in classes and provides basic physical and mental healthcare. This includes:

  • On-demand medical care
  • Appointment-based medical care
  • On-demand mental health support (TalkNow)
  • Appointment-based mental health counseling
  • Psychiatric support
  • Health Coaching
  • Basic Needs assistant
  • Digital self-care content

According to the release, this program is for basic health conditions including flu, pink eye and respiratory issues, along with panic disorders and relationship issues.

Jared Hinders, the coordinator for the counseling center at Amarillo College, said this came about after seeing some disparity regarding access of mental health and physical health care over the past six years. Hinders said he hopes that this 24/7 plan opens up opportunities for this kind of care for all students.

This program will be for students enrolled in level one or level two certificate programs or an associate degree program at the college, officials said in the release.

“What we’re hoping to see is that we’re able to remove a barrier that students may have to achieve their academic goals. That’s been a goal of Amarillo College for a long time, identifying those barriers and removing them the best way that we can,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are here to support our students in the best way. We don’t want our students to have to choose between coming to class or getting quality medical care.”

The college’s board of regents approved an agreement to have the program for Amarillo College students for the next three years for $300,000 per year. Officials said in the release that the three years of the program will be funded through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

Hinders said after the college went through a request for proposal process, it was evident to the college that TimelyCare was the best program for Amarillo College. Hinders stressed that TimelyCare was the leading tele-provider for colleges and universities throughout the country.

Throughout the three years of the program, Hinders said the college will be collecting data on the impact of the program on the college’s student retention. The aim is to show that it has a positive impact on student retention, with the college not having to raise its tuition or raise taxes after the initial three years.

“The goal is, we are going to be measuring on our end the impact that this has and drawing a correlation between these services and student success,” he said. “After the three years is over, we are hoping to be able to show that this service has had such an impact on student retention, that it will pay for itself.”

Officials from the college stressed that the need for 24/7 access to these kinds of services has never been more important, citing a report by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation that said student mental health is the number one reason students leave college.

“(This program) really fits our mission as a College and our culture of caring,” Denese Skinner, the college’s vice president of student affairs, said. in the release “A great many of our students do not have healthcare benefits, a reality that often impedes their academic pursuits. When their basic healthcare needs go unfulfilled it puts them at risk of underachieving or even dropping out. We believe the addition of free basic telemedicine is a win-win deal, a critical element of support that will greatly impact both student success and retention.”

For more information about Amarillo College, visit its website.