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Stanford expands mental wellness resources with new, free benefit

Eligible employees now have access to Meru Health, in addition to the existing Stanford programs that offer professional counseling, wellness and healthy living activities. 

Stanford has been long-known for its “culture of wellness,” and the circumstances of the past year have encouraged university leaders to further invest in employee programs that focus on mental well-being. 

To ensure all employees have access to the support they need to thrive at work and in life, Stanford provides free short-term professional counseling through the Faculty Staff Help Center and free wellness services to benefits-eligible employees through BeWell. In addition, to help employees manage the impacts of the pandemic, the university recently introduced COVID Flex Hours, which provides up to 80 hours of paid time to address qualifying COVID-related needs. The policy also provides eligible employees with up to 24 hours of additional paid time to address self-care and personal wellness.

“The need for mental health services is very high right now,” said Rosan Gomperts, licensed clinical social worker and director of the Faculty Staff Help Center. Moreover, many employees enrolled in university-provided health plans are unable to receive the mental health services they need due to limited access and high out-of-network costs in the Bay Area. So Stanford Benefits, working in consultation with Gomperts and her team, have found another option. 

Meru Health is an online mental wellness program that is now available for free to employees, and their adult dependents, who are enrolled in a university medical plan. This program is available to participants living in 24 states, with nationwide coverage becoming available mid-year 2021.

How Meru Health works

Using a structured, mind/body approach, Meru Health helps participants reduce anxiety, depression and burnout through a 12-week, online program. The journey begins with a video session with a licensed therapist and access to a psychiatrist, if needed. The program includes easily accessible video lessons, mindfulness and biofeedback practices, an anonymous peer group (with participants outside of Stanford), chat-based therapy and activities for improving sleep, nutrition and more. 

Participants can access the program from their mobile device, any time and anywhere. The program is HIPAA compliant and the information provided to Meru Health is not shared with Stanford or health care plans. 

Improving mental health outcomes

Meru Health’s data shows the program has made a significant impact on reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout, with seven out of 10 participants reporting significant symptom reduction one year later.  

“This type of platform can be really useful for the virtual world we are living in,” Gomperts said. “Meru Health helps to meet the need for mental health care by providing broad access to useful resources and professional support.”

Getting the help you need

“Especially now, there should be no stigma,” Gomperts added. Stanford leaders are working to normalize mental wellness by making more resources available to employees and encouraging everyone to find what works for them, including these programs: 

  • BeWell is an incentive program that provides free health services and activities to employees and their spouses/registered domestic partners.  
  • The Faculty Staff Help Center provides free, short-term professional counseling, workshops and discussion groups to employees and eligible family members. 
  • Meru Health provides a structured approach to mental wellness, accessible to eligible employees and their dependents right from their smartphones.
  • Employees enrolled in some Stanford health plans have access to Teladoc for medical and mental health visits provided virtually. 

One silver lining of the past year is that it has shined light on the broad need for mental health support. The culture of wellness at Stanford will only grow stronger as more employees take advantage of the programs available to them.