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Companies have sprung up to help students with mental health issues navigate college life

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A variety of programs have emerged to help students with mental issues prepare for college. Getty Images

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When Scot Marken’s son started applying to college, Marken quickly realized it was going to be more complicated than just figuring out what majors schools offered or what the party scene looked like. 

He said his son has mental health issues and what he described as “mild autism.” His son had always gone to small schools, where there was a lot of support. 

Now, his son wanted to go to a big school, and “so I was nervous about that,” Marken said. 

Helping his son figure it out, Marken saw the opportunity for a new business. Now his company, EdRedefined, helps students like his son navigate the application process. And more and more companies are popping up to help students who are dealing with mental health concerns succeed at college. 

Marken’s job starts with an assessment of a student’s situation to determine things like how ready a student is to live independently. He said he asks students and their families questions like: “How much knowledge do they have about their diagnosis? Do they currently receive therapy? Do they currently take medication? How much [do] they know about that medication?” 

Some students with mental health needs have to take fewer classes each term, which can mean more semesters to graduate. Others need to find new therapists, and those near campus may be out-of-network. Marken also helps students think through things like testing accommodations, and how to apply for them.

But sometimes students need more help than that. 

A mental health care company called The Dorm helps 18-to-30 year olds, offering care for everything from serious mental illnesses to substance use, at sites in New York City and D.C. The programs are designed to help clients with mental illness prepare for college life or to return to campus if they’ve taken a leave. 

“I like to say our treatment model here really is like a college class schedule,” said Sarah Harte, director of the D.C. branch. “They’re really coming and going from our location similar to the way that they would on a college campus.”

The spaces are meant to feel campus-like rather than clinical, and to provide ways for clients to connect with their peers. 

But none of that is cheap: families have to pay up front. Harte said the lowest level of care starts at $150 an hour in D.C. But the most intensive treatment can run as much as $20,000 a month.

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