In May, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced a statewide collaboration between New Jersey colleges and universities, including Rutgers and Uwill, a mental health and wellness service offering free, on-demand teletherapy for students.
Students can choose from a diverse network of qualified therapists based on issue, gender, language and ethnicity, according to Uwill. All counselors are licensed mental health professionals with years of clinical experience.
Francesca Maresca, assistant vice chancellor for Health and Wellness at Rutgers Student Affairs, said that Uwill offers Rutgers students expedited and convenient access to mental health care.
"UWill offers virtual mental health services … (and) an immediate appointment with a licensed counselor based on student needs and preferences, wellness events and more," she said.
Students can schedule 30-minute sessions either through video, phone or chat, she said. Maresca said that although this is Rutgers' first collaboration with Uwill, other universities and institutions of higher learning have already successfully implemented the service.
She explained that students can access these services across all campuses, but faculty and staff cannot utilize Uwill.
Maresca said that this new service is not a replacement for Rutgers' Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) but instead adds to the work that CAPS does for the University community.
Uwill's services are accessible later at night and on weekends when CAPS is typically unavailable, according to the Student Health website.
In Fall 2021, the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) conducted a survey asking more than 15,000 college students about their health. The survey's conclusions demonstrated the need for increased mental health care, according to the release.
Maresca said that after Murphy announced this partnership, leaders at Rutgers Student Affairs met to discuss how to implement this new service offered by Uwill.
"Given the rising requests for mental health services, it made sense to provide another mental health resource for students. All four chancellor-led units at Rutgers University (Camden, New Brunswick, Newark and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Services) accepted (Murphy's) offer," she said.
She said that after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, CAPS began offering virtual appointments, and despite the return to fully in-person campus activities, the interest in virtual appointments has continued.
Salvador Mena, senior vice chancellor for Student Affairs, sent a University-wide email during the Success Weeks announcing the new mental health resource. In his email, he reassured the University community of Uwill's privacy and security.
Maresca said she hopes the addition of Uwill will allow students to access mental health support with little to no wait.
"Being able to offer a wide variety of mental health services to Rutgers students aligns with the Rutgers–New Brunswick Academic Master Plan," she said.
New Jersey is the first state in the U.S. to offer these health services statewide to both public and private colleges. These services are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act's $10 million contribution to OSHE's 2023 budget.