Pomona plans to revive program funding off-campus therapy co-pays

Students rallied March 11 at Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center for improved mental health resources. At a faculty meeting the week before, Pomona Dean of Students announced plans to restore funding for off-campus therapy co-pays. (Ian Poveda • The Student Life)

Pomona College plans to implement new off-campus therapy policies that would cover students’ co-pays, Dean of Students Avis Hinkson announced in a faculty meeting March 6.

Although the plan has not been finalized, the new program will “allow our students to use their insurance and have the co-pay — or the percentage that is not covered by the insurance — covered by the college,” Hinkson said in the meeting.

Pomona is implementing this program at least in part due to long wait times for appointments with Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, which are “currently about four weeks,” Monsour Assistant Director Fiona Vajk said via email.

Pomona previously supported a similar program to the one Hinkson outlined. In 2016, Pomona implemented a program that connected students with off-campus therapists and paid their co-pays, due to similar concerns about the wait times and a lack of diversity at Monsour.

However, in September 2018, Pomona rescinded its full coverage of co-pays and announced that the 5C Student Health Insurance Plan would return to only covering in-network therapists, according to an email to Pomona students from Hinkson.

Under the proposed new plan, Pomona will reimburse costs not covered by students’ insurance — including but not limited to the 5C Student Health Insurance Plan. SHIP currently covers 80 percent of therapy costs, and Pomona would cover the remaining 20 percent, plus the co-pay, totaling about $40, Hinkson said.

In the current program, student have to pay the co-pays for their off-campus therapy themselves.

The funding for this off-campus coverage was not already in Pomona’s budget, and came from Hinkson “working really hard with the donors to get a quarter of a million dollars,” President G. Gabrielle Starr said in the meeting.

Additional funding has also already been added to Monsour, Hinkson said.

The President’s Council has continued working “to provide additional funding to Monsour so they will be able to retain their staffing … and all-in-all provide more resources for the students,” Hinkson said.

There has been growing concern among students surrounding the lack of access to on-campus therapy, which culminated in a rally March 11 organized by a coalition calling itself Students for an Accountable Pomona.

Speakers at the rally called for accessibility, transparency and support for students from marginalized communities, according to a document released by the organizers prior to the rally.

In addition to covering co-pays for in-network therapists for SHIP, Pomona is currently working to expand the incoming program to include a wide range of providers who are on other students’ insurance plans’ networks, Hinkson said.

The program is still being developed, because Pomona is “looking to make sure that we have an appropriate number of providers that are signing on to this program,” she said. The college is working to compile lists of in-network therapists for both SHIP and other insurance provides who are willing to take on new clients.

“We are working to address the availability and accessibility of mental health options, with affordability as a key component. We are still working through details and plan to have more complete information within weeks,” Hinkson said via email to TSL.

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