The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 59.0°F | Overcast and Breezy

Mental Health Task Force Begins Survey

By Eun J. Lee

ASSOCIATE FEATURES EDITOR

The Mental Health Task Force released an anonymous online survey to some students in hopes of gauging their opinions on the services MIT offers.

In an unrelated development, MIT’s supplemental insurance program announced it will increase the outpatient reimbursement for students seeking outside mental health services to $50 per visit.

“We are committed to facilitating access to mental health services for students at MIT,” said MIT Medical Director Dr. William Kettyle of the reimbursement increase.

The survey responses will help shape the task force’s recommendations for future improvements in mental health services.

“The survey should provide important insights into the perceived needs of our student community and their view of the services provided,” Kettyle said.

The link to the online survey was sent Monday to 1,000 random students, split evenly between undergraduates and graduates.

After the initial random sample fills out the survey, it will likely be opened up to all MIT students.

“The more responses we get, the more we know what people want from mental health services,” said David A. Mellis ’02, co-chair of the task force. “Strong student support of the issue through their responses to the task force makes the argument in support of increased mental health services more powerful.”

The survey is 50 questions long and asks for yes/no, multiple choice, and write-in answers. Among the topics covered by the questions are general knowledge of available mental health services, personal experiences with the service, and recommendations for improvement.

Task force to propose changes

The survey is a preliminary step taken by the task force to help formulate recommendations of changes to mental health services at the Institute.

Some areas of improvement which are being explored include the quality and availability of mental health services, the possible development of outreach programs, and increasing awareness of available support services. The group is also keeping in mind confidentiality concerns, Mellis said.

The task force hopes to create a set of recommendations for administrators later this term.

“The report of the Mental Health Task Force will be a source of guidance as we consider how best to meet the mental health needs of our community,” Kettyle said.

The task force is composed of a number of students, administrators, and mental health personnel.

“It is a pretty diverse group and has a number of people who are in a position to implement change,” Mellis said.

Outpatient reimbursement raised

The increase in the reimbursement plan applies to individual, couple, family, or group outpatient therapy provided on or after April 1, 2001.

“I think it’s a great thing because it makes help more accessible,” Mellis said. “It can be expensive to see someone outside of MIT.”

The previous reimbursement was up to $35 per visit. The extended MIT hospital insurance plan for students reimburses up to 50 outpatient therapy visits per calendar year for treatment of a mental condition, including alcoholism, at any participating treatment facility, according to a press release from MIT Medical.

“A mechanism was established to provide partial payment for mental health services provided outside of MIT in order to make a wide range of mental health services available,” Kettyle said.

The decision to raise the benefit amount was made this past winter by the senior management team at MIT Medical, which includes clinicians and administrators.

“The amount was increased because the benefit had not been adjusted upward in the past several years and with the hope that a benefit increase would make mental health services more affordable,” Kettyle said.

Students and covered family members who qualify for the supplemental insurance program can contact MIT Medical’s mental health service at (617) 253-2916 for an initial evaluation and referral to an outside therapist.

Any students who are interested in getting involved in improving mental health at MIT can apply for open positions on the Mental Health Task Force by sending an e-mail to mh-taskforce@mit.edu. Members of the MIT community may also add themselves to a mailing list of the mental health task force called mh-talk@mit.edu.