The University of Washington Police Department will continue to respond to student mental health crises despite the University’s announcement last May that it would be shifting the mental health response from police.
The University has not publicly announced that its agreement with an outside supplier was unsuccessful and has not announced any plans for an alternative.
The University’s public safety committee issued a report in february that call for mental health professionals to respond to student mental health crises instead of WUPD. The The university announced implementing this recommendation in May with plans to partner with a community organization to provide a 24/7 on-call mental health crisis program staffed with mental health professionals.
According to Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration and Chief Administrative Officer Shantay Bolton, the University intended to partner with Behavioral Health Response (BHR), a local nonprofit providing a support in a mental health crisis, but the deal collapsed after the University and BHR could not come to an agreement.
“[BHR and the University] sat down and struck up a conversation, âsaid Bolton, who started at the university on July 1 and did not oversee the negotiations for the BHR deal. âHowever, the business model could not be mutually beneficial for both of us, and when we reflected on the unique needs of our students in this campus community, we felt that by working internally we will be able to providing niche services at a higher level in a better way than going with a partner.
BHR has its own 24/7 mental health crisis helpline for anyone located in Eastern Missouri as Uncle Joe’s Peer Resource and Counseling Center recommend students to use instead of WUPD for mental health crises.
âI don’t want people to think there was something wrong with BHR or something wrong with WashU,â Bolton said. âIt’s just that sometimes when you’re considering engaging with a community partner, it’s just not the right solution. We always knew we could move forward and ensure that the services we provide were the right level of service aligned with the specific and distinctive needs of our university community.
The recommendations of the public safety committee also included establishing a means for the Danforth campus community to provide feedback on public safety and emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability surrounding public safety on the campus.
âWhen we have worked together and continue to do so, it is to bring WUPD into our different spaces – in terms of affinity groups and other spaces – for students to see as support, for students to see them as members of the community in all honesty and provide more briefings on what they do and who they are, âsaid Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Anna Gonzalez.
WUPD also added traffic and pedestrian stop data to their website for the sake of transparency.
“I still work with [WUPD] to think about other creative ways and means of disseminating data for students and members of our community so that it can be used in ways that are meaningful and easy for people to understand, âsaid Bolton.
Bolton now plans to create an advisory working group made up primarily of students and faculty to help lead his implementation of the recommendations of the Public Safety Committee.
âThe truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to all challenges when you think about mental health and what it looks like in our society right now,â Bolton said. “But I think if we put our heads together and come to the table ready to come up with ideas and also listen to each other, we can find ourselves in a big space in the future.”
Undergraduate and graduate students of the Advisory Working Group will have the opportunity to express their views to the administration. Bolton hopes the advisory task force, led by herself and Gonzalez, will be formed by the end of the fall semester.
âWe want to actively work on ways to bring these recommendations to life, but in an inclusive, thoughtful and structured process,â Bolton said. âBy having an advisory working group, it allows me to gain insight, hear the voice of students and be a partner in shaping our way forward. “
The recommendations of the Public Safety Committee included Survey data this showed that students of color and queer, transgender and non-binary students felt much less comfortable than other students in interactions with WUPD. Bolton remained focused on gathering additional information on student discomfort.
âSo when they say discomfort, what does that mean to you? What does it look like and what can we do differently with the way we train our agents, how our agents present themselves, how visible they are and in what way? Bolton said. âI want us to have an open and frank dialogue. I really want to listen and I want us to think about ways to meet around the table. WUPD is part of our community, like our students, like faculty and staff. How can we all come together to understand each other better, but also to have responsibilities in place so that we know what to expect from each other.
Bolton said the current implementation of the Public Safety Committee’s recommendations will involve reviewing WUPD’s mental health training as officers continue to respond to mental health crisis calls. She said that on average, WUPD receives two mental health crisis calls per month.
âWe are reviewing and reviewing the training that our law enforcement officers take,â Bolton said. âWe don’t want them to become mental health counselors. It is not their role.
We want them to be aware of monitoring certain behaviors and have skills to help meet students where they are, if they find them in the midst of a crisis, to facilitate de-escalation in a way. which contributes to the general well-being of the student. “
Emily Angstreich, co-director of Uncle Joe’s, told Student Life in September that Uncle Joe’s was “very much behind and in favor” of mobile crisis units, such as BHR. “So I think if [the deal] could be relaunched, that would be great. But I felt like it couldn’t be.
The deal having failed, Angstreich said that “our goal is to make sure that [the administration] remember that this is important and that we continue to make them understand its importance.
Kasey Noss and Grace Kennard contributed reporting.
Behavioral Health Response (BHR) is a Missouri organization that provides crisis support, telephone counseling, and mental health resources. They are reachable 24/7 at 1-800-811-4760.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential 24/7 support. They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
The Steve Fund, an organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color, has a 24/7 crisis text line that can be reached by texting STEVE at 741741 .
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQIA + people, can be reached by calling 1-866-488-7386, texting START at 678-678 or online at thetrevorproject.org/get-help- now /.