Getting Health and Mental Health Care on College Campuses
Going to college may be the first time you’re responsible for your own physical and mental health care. This can feel a little overwhelming at first, but there are steps you can take to make the process manageable and ensure you have access to resources when you need them. And there are many on-campus resources you can use to take care of your health and mental health in college.
Learn About What Your Campus Offers
You can usually get plenty of information about campus health, counseling, and other student services on your school’s website and during orientation. Look for the following information:
- Where are health centers located, and what are their hours?
- What is the best way to reach the health and counseling centers to make an appointment or ask a question? Save these numbers and email addresses.
- What kinds of treatment can they provide?
- Are visits free?
- Are there limits on the number of visits?
- Do you need to be on the school insurance plan to use campus health services?
- Will the school accept your insurance if you’re on another plan or under your parent’s or caregiver’s insurance?
- Is there any financial support for medical costs?
- How does your campus handle health emergencies?
Confirm Health Insurance Coverage
Many campus health and counseling services offer unlimited access for free after you pay a mandatory health fee with tuition and housing fees, but you will need health insurance in case you have an accident, need to go to the hospital, or need or want to see an off-campus health care provider. Some colleges may also require that you sign up for their health insurance plan.
If You’re Already Covered on a Family Insurance Plan
Find out if you can keep that coverage while away at school. Your family insurance plan may offer nationwide coverage or specific out-of-state benefits.
If your college offers health insurance plans, but your family plan is adequate, you may need to submit documentation showing you’re covered. That way, you can opt out of your campus health insurance plan and avoid an unnecessary cost.
If You Don’t Have Insurance Coverage
You may not have health insurance because:
- Your family’s insurance plan doesn’t offer out-of-state coverage.
- You’ve aged out of your family’s plan.
- You don’t have it for another reason.
If this applies to you, check out your school’s health insurance offerings. Go to your college’s website or call health services to learn about what’s available to you. You may want to check if:
- Your college’s insurance plan covers you in your home state.
- Coverage extends over summer break.
- The plan covers the kinds of services you may need, such as in-patient care, mental health care, or treatment for substance misuse.
Although college health insurance plans are generally more affordable than commercial plans, you can also look into financing options. Some plans may be covered by financial aid.
Learn more about getting health insurance
Make a Plan for Medications
Most school health and counseling services can provide information about local pharmacies where you can get any medication you may need. Medication can be expensive, but most health insurance plans help to cover some or most of the cost.
If you take medicine regularly for a condition such as asthma, ADHD, anxiety, or diabetes, it might be easier to have your healthcare provider from back home order your prescription and have a family member pick it up and mail it to you. Many health insurance companies also offer mail-in pharmacies where you can have a three-month supply of medication mailed directly to you at school. Your at-home health care provider may also be able to call in or write prescriptions to be picked up at a local pharmacy.
If you’re treating an ongoing mental health condition, there are many helpful ways to transition your mental health care from home to college.
Know Your Privacy Rights
If you’re over age 18 and receive treatment at school, your health care provider legally cannot share your health care information without your permission. But you can choose to have them share your information with your family or provider back home if you think that would be helpful.
There are forms you can sign that allow your school to contact your family when you’re sick. You can even pick what kinds of information can and can’t be shared. For example, if you don’t want your family to know you’re using birth control, you can let the health center know that this information can’t be shared.
If a family member is worried about you and calls health or counseling services or a dean of students, those offices generally can’t share information without your permission. Your privacy is protected by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, unless a health care provider thinks a person could be a threat to themself or someone else.
If you have a true health or safety emergency, these offices may contact your family or emergency services without your permission. But whenever possible, they’ll tell you that they’re doing so.
Research Health Services in the Community
If your college doesn’t offer on-campus health or counseling services, reach out to see what they can offer. They’ll likely have connections with community providers and can share information about getting local care and treatment. Plus, your school may have agreements with local providers that take student needs into account, like reasonable fees, flexible hours of service, transportation, and more, so you can get affordable care off campus.
You can also do your own research into health clinics, hospitals, and urgent care centers in the surrounding area. Community health centers may be nearby that offer care for little to no cost. You can inquire about sliding scales, which is when the cost of services is adjusted based on what you’re able to pay.
You may also have access to online or telemedicine options offered through your insurance that allow you to message or have video calls with a physician.