UTSA PD, UTSA Department of Counseling Work To Improve Preparedness for Mental Health Response Calls
To ensure that its students' mental health needs are met, the UTSA PD and the UTSA Department of Counseling are working in tandem to lend more tools to campus police officers to improve preparedness for mental health responses.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, college students have experienced unusually high levels of burnout, directly impacting their mental health. One positive of the pandemic was the awareness and action taken by universities towards mental health as reports show close to 90% of college students reported having mental health issues during COVID.
“Our behavioral team has seen a very big increase in cases over the past year, especially with the pandemic,” UTSA Police Captain Thomas Calucci said. “We knew that with the community returning to campus, and with some of the things that we have seen nationwide, I really felt that this year is going to be unprecedented in terms of the number of calls we receive for a mental health type of response.”
The mental health crisis intervention training is designed for campus police officers and will delve into a range of topics including crisis intervention, communication skills, identifying serious mental illness and symptoms, accessing suicidal and homicidal intent, and the coordination of mental health services.
The collaborative endeavor has also garnered the praise and interest of several campus professors within the Department of Counseling who have volunteered their time to assist in leading the training sessions.
“The Department of Counseling is very excited by the opportunity to partner with the police department and to be a part of this really important initiative,” Thelma Duffey, chair of the UTSA College of Education and Human Development’s counseling department told UTSA Today. “We see this form of collaboration as a way to share our expertise and support the needs of the community and the police department.”
Among the myriad of responsibilities, UTSA police officers are the first responders, on-call 24 hours a day, and the tools offered via training enable these officers to connect with students in need and make a real impact while on campus.
“One of our goals is to support the community and the police officers in navigating high-risk situations,” Duffey said. “We’d like to educate law enforcement on mental health and crisis risk management, so they’re better equipped to serve our student population.”