The Collegian
Monday, November 28, 2022

Threat Assessment Team promotes campus well-being

<p>A serene, warm day on Westhampton lake.</p>

A serene, warm day on Westhampton lake.

Members of the University of Richmond community received an email re-introducing the Threat Assessment Team at the beginning of this semester. Here is what the team means for students:

The University of Richmond’s Threat Assessment Team puts student and campus well-being as a top priority through the efforts of over twenty faculty and staff who collaborate to assess potential threats as part of the confidential system.

The creation of TAT was spurred by a statewide push for similar resources following the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Shooting of 2007, Director of Student Development Steve Bisese said. 

Following the tragedy, the Virginia legislature added a required measure of threat assessment teams at every public university; the Code of Virginia specifies such teams as “violence prevention committees,” but UR has centered the team around identifying and caring for students in mental health crises or distress, Richmond College Dean Joe Boehman said.

The team and content of its proceedings are extremely confidential because of the sensitive nature of students’ behavioral and mental health, Bisese said. Once a student concern has been submitted through the online incident form, the team will collaborate on a potential outreach plan, typically headed by that student’s dean, in an effort to minimize escalation of the distress or crises, Bisese said. From there, the team relies heavily on the expertise of Counseling and Psychological Services and UR Police Department, Boehman said. 

While the ultimate goal is to assess potential threats, the team is ultimately a care and concern team, with priorities on early intervention of a student who poses a potential threat to themselves or others, Boehman said.

The team comprises experts and professionals from several disciplines including, but not limited to, law enforcement, faculty, deans and counseling professionals, and collaborates on appropriate case management plans, according to the Office of Student Development website. The intersectional expertise of the team allows for a more effective evaluation of the level or type of intervention needed, Boehman and Bisese said.

“It’s about having different perspectives… all with the same goal that we want to help the student,” Boehman said.

Prior to TAT, UR’s administrative and Student Development offices had already established the need for similar Behavioral Assessment Teams, and the statewide creation of these teams allows UR to reference other universities’ programs in order to improve their own, Bisese said. UR’s TAT has undergone an external and internal review in the past year to improve organization and strategy, Bisese said.

A question on the form allows students to indicate whether or not the information can be shared with CAPS. If allowed, the information is typically shared with a clinician, and information about any previous experiences the student has had with CAPS becomes relevant, said Kristen Day, assistant director of clinical services for CAPS.

When there is an indication that a student might harm themself, the deans’ offices may request a police officer equipped with mental health first aid training to do a “welfare check” to assess and intervene in potential self-harm, Boehman said. Intervention for a student is determined on a case-to-case basis, often beginning with resources from mental health professionals or the deans, Boehman said

Mental health and psychological first aid training is offered on a few levels, Day said. While expected of URPD, area coordinators and residence assistants, mental health first aid training is also offered to faculty, staff and organizations at UR.

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More often than not, a student having a mental health crisis will exhibit behavioral differences to their friends, significant others or professors, and often these behaviors can affect these outside individuals as well, Boehman said. 

When someone you know begins to isolate, behave differently or have fits of sadness or anger, it can be difficult to understand how to help them, so TAT is available to help with these situations, Boehman said.

Concerned community members can submit an online incident report form.

Contact news writer Zoe Beede at zoe.beede@richmond.edu.

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