Mental Health Services adjusts operations amidst recent crises

Following the two crises on campus, Mental Health Services adjusted operations to meet the needs of students on campus.

Nursing student Mia Brown, 21, died on Feb. 12 at the rec center following a medical emergency. Visual and Performing Arts student Sam Knopp, 24, and Celie Rain Montgomery, 26, were killed in Knopp’s dorm room on Feb. 16.

Director of Mental Health Services Cathy Calvert said mental health services have been fully utilized by students during this time, but the Wellness Center hasn’t been overwhelmed.

“We’ve had a large number of people we’ve seen over the last two weeks,” she said. “Much more than we were expecting. Above and beyond what we’ve had before.”

Calvert said her team felt prepared to handle the situation once they developed a plan. “I think we have the skill level to be able to manage it. It’s just hard. It’s hard seeing everyone hurting so much,” she said.

“The first loss with Mia Brown, that was more of a focus that was handled by myself and a few of the clinicians taking on additional responsibilities,” she said. “Once we had the shooting, then the entire team kicked into gear.”

On the morning of the shooting, the Mental Health Services staff, which consists of 11 licensed clinicians, two full-time interns and 10 graduate students, were sent over to the cybersecurity building that Friday evening to offer services while the campus remained closed for the homicide investigation.

Mental Health Services were allowed to return to the Wellness Center on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18, where they provided crisis services from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

While the center was technically closed on Feb. 19, all of the clinicians were available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to provide crisis services. Students who had appointments scheduled for Feb. 19 were rescheduled for later in the week.

The Wellness Center usually offers one free walk-in slot from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekdays, but they have increased this to two walk-in slots to accommodate for the crises. The extra slot will continue to be available through March 8 and possibly longer if Calvert determines it is still needed.

Mental Health Services also reached out to groups that were directly connected to the events. “When we think about working with a crisis — an emergency situation — our first response is to go directly to the people that are closest to it, so that’s who we reached out to first,” Calvert said.

She and her team reached out to the nursing department, the VAPA department, residents who lived close to the shooting, resident assistants and classes and clubs that were associated with the students who passed.

Students are seen the day they come in to address a crisis. If they are interested in starting therapy after their walk-in, they will be scheduled for their first appointment within a couple of days.

“It’s [walk-ins] just a meeting. It’s not therapy. It’s just an opportunity for somebody to come in and talk, kind of figure out what they might need right now, make sure they’re getting resources,” Calvert said.

Students also get three free therapy visits on top of the walk-ins.

With the high demand for services following the crises, Calvert said that they are also prioritizing the mental health of their staff. Mental Health Services helps connect their staff to therapy and other resources, and they also meet regularly as a team to check in with each other.

Calvert encourages students to continue to take advantage of the services during this time. On top of offering emotional support, Calvert said they can also help students get connected to academic and basic needs resources.

If students need mental health services outside of the Wellness Center’s operating hours or are unable to come to campus, they can use the TELUS Health App, a 24/7 free mental health service that is available for all UCCS students.

Mental Health Services is still reaching out to groups who have been impacted by the crises on campus. If a group on campus is interested in this service, they can reach out to Calvert by emailing her at [email protected] or calling her office at 719-255- 3660.

Seating area inside the Wellness Center. Photo from The Scribe archives.