Students Evaluate Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team Launch

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Earlier this semester, the University announced the official launch of the Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team (BHCST). In an email to students on Nov. 9, the administration said the initiative will begin with a pilot program at the Homewood campus and gradually expand throughout the university.

As of Dec. 10, the team had responded to four distress calls for students and one distress call for a community member, according to vice-provost for student health and welfare Kevin Shollenberger and principal. Media Relations Jill Rosen.

Jarron Jackson, Senior Director of the Office of Campus Safety and Security (Campus Security), explained why his security team views the BHCST as a crucial part of Campus Security’s response to people in crisis in an interview with The News-Letter.

“21st century public safety is really about problem solving,” he said. “I think this need is best suited by a double response between a public safety officer and a clinician. That’s why I was excited about the future of the program.

He explained that whenever a call arrives to report someone in crisis, the call is routed to a Trained Crisis Intervention (CIT) agent who then teams up with a clinician to respond to the call. call together. They decide who will lead the response to the situation; if the incident poses a threat to public safety, the officer will be responsible.

Michael Wood, a therapist on the team, explained how he approaches people in distress in an interview with The News-Letter.

“When we approach a scene, we usually establish a relationship with the client, thinking [out] What is going on [and] what the situation is and work with them to defuse and bring them back to a baseline and assess whether or not they need medical assistance, ”he said.

To help defuse the situation, Woods noted that he used breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises, and distress tolerance exercises, as well as a conversation with the distressed client to reduce the sense of chaos. and panic.

Jackson explained how the team determines whether the situation poses a threat to public safety, saying that by bringing together two experts in their respective fields of public safety and mental health, the overall response will be tailored to the current situation.

“Now we have two experts working together to make this decision. We have our clinician[s] who are the experts in mental health and we have our public safety officers who are experts in this area, ”he said. “Together they decide which route we should take in this particular case.”

Jackson also mentioned that the University wants to expand the program to all places where University public safety officers respond and not just limit service to Hopkins affiliates. However, he noted that expansion plans will depend on observations of the flaws and challenges made in the pilot phase.

Jackson pointed out that the university’s planned private police force and this response team are separate programs. He reiterated that, although independent of each other, the response team would complement the police services.

“Some law enforcement officers are sometimes the only ones responding to mental health crises,” he said. “With this model that we’re creating, it creates a foundation where our policies and procedures for responding to mental health crises are actually passed on to the clinician as well as a public safety officer to make the decision to provide the best possible resources.” . “

The Coalition Against Policing by Hopkins expressed concerns about the Behavioral Health Crisis Team in an email to the Newsletter.

“The behavioral health unit is another way to monitor and institutionalize people,” he writes. “Given Hopkins’ past behavior, we can only expect a disproportionate implementation and lack of community engagement in the project – and danger to us and our neighbors.”

Freshman Peixi Ge pointed out that the BHCST can help those in distress get the help they need while bypassing some of the bureaucratic hurdles affiliated with other mental health resources in an email to The News-Letter.

“Right now, when I think of the health-related crisis support that Hopkins provides, I think of the counseling center. However, this usually forces people to fill out a lot of paperwork… before talking to a counselor, which can delay when people get help and discourage them from getting help, ”he said. she writes. “The Behavioral Health Crisis Team will tackle this problem and provide hands-on service to those who need it. “

Abigail, a student who spoke with The News-Letter last spring about her negative experience with the University’s handling of her mental health crisis, expressed skepticism of the team in an interview. The News-Letter granted him anonymity to protect his privacy; she chose the pseudonym Abigail.

“I see it as being reactive rather than proactive, like addressing the catastrophic outcome of [mental health issues] rather than prevent this disaster from happening, ”she said. “If you don’t step in until someone considers suicide or self-harm … like, I feel like it shouldn’t be necessary for it to matter. . “

Abigail argued that the university needs to tackle the fundamental issues of mental health issues among the student body, especially what she sees as the toxic campus culture.

“Among the students, I think, especially among the [those who are on the] premedication[ical track], there’s that kind of … competitiveness, not when it comes to grades, but when it comes to trying hard, how overwhelmed you are, how fucked up you are for exams, ” she declared. “Students love to complain and that kind of reinforces the idea that if you’re not in pain, you’re probably not trying hard enough in school. ”

In order to be a more effective intervention unit, Abigail recommended that the team have a minimum number of interveners, composed of members adapted to the patient’s history. and be more attentive to the rights and needs of the client.

In an e-mail to The News-Letter, Freshman Sydnee Chang said the launch of BHCST is a step in the right direction for the University when it comes to campus mental health, although she believes it needs more. advertising.

“I think it’s really important for Hopkins to address the mental health of his students, especially because the workload can be very intense and a lot of students also want to struggle to maintain a social life as well,” a- she writes. “I think the BHCST program could use a lot more advertising and work to reach students rather than waiting for students to contact.”

Margery Chen contributed to the writing of this article.


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