AUSTIN, Texas — The Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin is teaming up with Austin Community College District to launch a pilot program called Amplify Center to support mental health needs.

The two-year program slated to begin this fall will focus its first year on providing mental health services to at least 200 ACC students between the ages of 18 and 29 at the Eastview campus, located in a medically underserved part of Travis County. Students will receive mental health screenings and diagnostic assessments from professionals. They will also have access to services which include counseling, peer support and resource navigation in their communities to other services.

The center plans to expand eventually to other ACC campuses as well as provide more services across communities in Travis County.

“Young adulthood doesn’t fit well into our existing mental health care systems,” said Dr. Deborah Cohen, a Dell Med assistant professor and Amplify Center executive director. “Our current mental health system was created to support adults who are already living with chronic mental illness. A young adult usually can’t access those services unless they are in crisis or have a run-in with the police. We need better solutions for this age group than what’s currently in place.”

Students who are identified as having more acute mental health needs will be referred to Travis County’s public mental health provider, Integral Care.

This pilot program is a result of nearly five years of collaboration and brainstorming to provide these mental health services to the community.

“The Center for Youth Mental Health has collaboratively worked with community providers to propose a creative solution to address the gap in the care continuum for young adults,” said Dr. Kathleen Casey, senior director of clinical innovation and development at Integral Care. “We hope this pilot is able to expand and fulfill unmet needs in our community.”

According to the U.S. surgeon general, suicide is the second most likely cause of death, with young adults at highest risk.

“These numbers are startling and disturbing, and the pandemic hasn’t helped. Students are having a harder time finding help and quality care,” said Dr. Shasta Buchanan, ACC vice chancellor of student affairs. “Our goal is to get more individuals the right care and when they need it — when their symptoms are in their infancy.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly identify the participating medical school as Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. (Sept. 9, 2022)