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Aria janello


Over the summer, the Mental Health Crisis Response Task Force, made up of student affairs staff, Talley Center staff, UMW students and police, recommended that the University of Mary Washington is establishing a 24-hour call center for mental health emergencies.

According to the recommendations of the Task Force on Mental Health Crisis Response, with the addition of a 24/7 call center, “students facing after-hours mental health issues or over the weekend would have the opportunity to speak to a qualified clinician to ensure the best outcome. . ”

The task force reviewed data from crisis calls from 2016 to 2021 during mental health emergencies. These calls came from university residences and involved the campus police.

Of a total of 27 crisis calls involving campus police, 21 were received after 5 p.m., an hour after the Talley Center call center closed.

Dr. Juliette Landphair, Vice President of Student Affairs, explained how the appeal service will be implemented if approved.

“The recommendation is now part of several strategic priorities that President Paino and the cabinet must take into account,” she said. If the recommendation is approved, Talley Center Director Dr. Tev Zukor, Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker and Assistant Dean of Residence Life Dave Fleming will work with the contracted provider to develop a program that meets the better for our needs. ”

ProtoCall is the recommended contract provider in all reports. The service works in partnership with universities and offers support, crisis intervention and referral to students and campus officials as needed.

ProtoCall would issue a 24-hour calling service that is being used successfully at other public universities in Virginia, such as James Madison University and William & Mary. This service would be used primarily for residence students, but off-campus students can use it as well.

Vivian Hyatt, a double major in psychology and senior sociology, was a member of the Mental Health Crisis Response Working Group. She explained why ProtoCall interests her and how he can help other students.

“This service will provide assistance while a student can be in a comfortable environment, in their own bedroom without having to speak face to face, making the situation less stressful,” said Hyatt.

The Mental Health Crisis Response Task Force was formed following an April 2021 recommendation from University President Troy Paino following the final report of the Police Community Advisory Group (CAP) of the ‘UMW in March 2021.

A 24-hour call center to support mental health crises was one of the task force’s five recommendations to restructure the way student mental health situations are handled on campus.

The working group identified the main areas in which to improve the mental health crisis for the community. Most important of these is to provide students with 24/7 access to clinical assessment and support, as well as to hire a case manager who would follow up on the students who are referred. to an off-campus mental health care provider.

Another recommendation was to list all training and procedures that campus police participate in, especially those that prepare them for mental health emergencies. Additional support and training for resident assistants, as well as general mental health training for the entire community, are also being explored.

“CAP has identified after-hours crisis response as an area that could be improved upon due to the recognition that some people struggle with serious mental health issues in the middle of the night, when Traditional support services like the Talley Center are not open, ”said Dr Tevya Zukor, director of the Talley Center. “The CAP recognized that students with the ability to speak with a trained mental health professional in the midst of a crisis are often preferable to an assessment of their situation by residential life professionals and campus police for determine if a hospital psychiatric assessment is required. “

Currently, the only access for students in mental health crisis situations to trained mental health professionals is the Talley Center call center. Thanks to this service, students can make an appointment for a crisis intervention by phone, Zoom or in person. This call center operates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

“The times when the Talley Center is not open (at night) are often the times when students are more likely to need help,” Hyatt said.

Currently, when students have mental health emergencies after hours or on weekends, the UMW campus police are the ones to respond.

According to the CAP final report, students believe that “campus police, as law enforcement professionals, are not sufficiently trained to respond to a mental health crisis (although all officers have followed the training of the crisis intervention team (CIT)). “

Summer Allen, a major in communications and digital studies, echoed the findings of the final report.

” I have the feeling that [campus police] are unreliable in these situations, ”Allen said. “If I had any problems, I wouldn’t think of calling the police.

Campus police also respond in full uniform, with duty weapons.

The CAP report states that these two student concerns “can increase the anxiety and fear of a student already in crisis.”

With the establishment of the 24-hour call center, the campus police would become an emergency response.

Students facing mental health emergencies during Talley Center opening hours can always call them for help.

Jean Mondoro contributed reporting for this article.