ACC & Dell Medical School launch new clinic to boost mental health services

New Amplify Center will open this fall at ACC Eastview Campus 

New, national data show that depression rates among college students are on the rise. Austin Community College District (ACC) is teaming up with the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin to launch a pilot program designed to increase mental health support for college students. The Amplify Center will serve as a mental health clinic at ACC Eastview Campus. Opening fall 2022, the center will test a new model for providing mental health services across Texas.

“Young adulthood doesn’t fit well into our existing mental health care systems,” says Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., 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.”

According to an advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General, over the past decade, depression rates of high school students rose from 26 to 38 percent, and suicide rates climbed 57 percent. In addition, 75 percent of young adults with serious mental illness report symptoms beginning before their 25th birthday.

“These numbers are startling and disturbing, and the pandemic hasn’t helped. Students are having a harder time finding help and quality care,” says 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.

The drop-in center will provide a screening tool to determine the severity of symptoms. Based on the results, students will be connected to services including:

  • Community resources for minor cases
  • Amplify core services for moderate mental health systems
  • Specialty care for serious mental illness

As part of a two-year pilot program, the Amplify Center aims to increase access and engagement with mental health support. During the first year, the center aims to serve 200 ACC students between 18 to 30 years old. Eventually, the center expects to expand to include additional services at more ACC locations as well as other community locations in Travis County. The goal is to present long-term outcomes to the Texas Legislature and expand across all ACC campuses.

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Love, Tito’s, and Twin Liquors all donated funds to initiate this pilot. The Center for Youth Mental Health is actively exploring additional donors to expand the number of individuals served through this initiative.

The Amplify Center opens this fall. Students interested in learning more or seeking support in the interim, may receive support from ACC’s Clinical Counseling team. ACC’s counselors continue to offer free services and programs across the district to help students foster life balance, develop personal and academic growth, and help maintain a safe and healthy learning environment. For support, visit the ACC’s Mental Health Counseling webpage.