Too often those who hold marginalized identities experience law enforcement negatively; they may have anxiety about past encounters, distressing associations with police violence from across the nation or other stressors such as racism or transphobia. Oregon State University partners, including the OSU Police, are taking a collaborative approach to help address these concerns by calling upon the most appropriate support services for students experiencing crisis. Our student-centered and trauma-informed response will take into account the unique nature of each student and situation, providing suitable care and resources.
OSU Assist, an enhanced approach to crisis response being developed at Oregon State University's Corvallis campus, brings together new personnel and existing university services to better support students facing challenges or crisis with the right resources at the right time. This effort recognizes that it is not necessary for every first responder to a crisis to be law enforcement — a multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, peer support specialists, community health workers and/or other first responders provides a more appropriate response in many situations.
OSU Assist is appropriate for situations such as crisis support, conflict resolution, substance abuse issues, the delivery of difficult information and resource connection. The team will only respond to calls if there are no reports of weapons or threats of violence. In addition, OSU Assist responses require that the individual in need of care is not actively attempting suicide.
If a 911 or non-emergency call meets the requirements of dispatching the OSU Assist team, the team will de-escalate and stabilize the situation and/or call upon additional first responders, as needed. OSU Assist will provide wraparound services at the time of the call — drawing upon the expertise of crisis response professionals to better support students — and in follow-up case management by connecting students to helpful resources.
A parent calls the non-emergency number for OSU Police because they have not heard from their child for a week and typically their student communicates with them daily. If that were to occur today, the OSU Police would go to the residence hall or engage with the hall staff to do a welfare check on the student. Rather than relying on law enforcement, OSU Assist would be able to respond in the future.
A student calls 911 because their roommate is experiencing a mental health crisis; they are extremely worried about their roommate and don’t know what to do. If the student in need of care is not actively attempting suicide, OSU Assist could respond, stabilize the student and then follow up to connect them to wraparound services (for example, support from Counseling & Psychological Services).
A death of a student’s loved one occurs — this could be a family member or close friend. Typically, OSU Police would go to the student to deliver this difficult news. A more appropriate response might be to send the OSU Assist team to deliver such news and then offer wraparound care and support services.
This strong network of care reimagines how we approach safety and security at Oregon State, creating greater alignment and collaboration among university and community partners in the coordination of crisis prevention, mental health, public safety and other support services in Corvallis. OSU Assist partners include Student Health Services (including the Survivor Advocacy & Resource Center), Counseling & Psychological Services, the OSU Police and Department of Public Safety, University Housing & Dining Services, Student Care, academic partners and community agencies.
OSU Assist also continues to engage with other partners outside of the university who are improving how they provide mobile crisis response services. These include external partners in the local communities that surround the OSU campuses as well as national and international groups and organizations focused on providing effective crisis response, often as an alternative to law enforcement. These partnerships offer benchmarking and resources for the OSU Assist program.
The integration of this new form of crisis response within the Oregon State community will occur in stages. Read below for a timeline of the anticipated launch of OSU Assist; the project is evolving and content is subject to change. You may email non-emergency comments or questions regarding this process to [email protected].
October 2020 | Formation of the OSU Assist Advisory Group — ongoing advisory group meetings launch in November 2020.
March and April 2021 | OSU Assist Advisory Group creates position description for new program coordinator in consultation with the Office of General Counsel and Insurance and Risk Management.
April 2021 | Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dan Larson reports on OSU Assist to the OSU Board of Trustees.
May through August 2021 | Recruited new program coordinator. Search concluded without successful hire.
June 2021 | OSU Assist Advisory Group holds webinars to update the OSU community on the progress of OSU Assist.
July through August 2021 | Distribute and collect community and stakeholder survey.
October 2021 | Reopen new program coordinator position search.
October through December 2021 | Complete position descriptions for additional members of the OSU Assist team. Recruit, hire and on board team members. Continue engagement with OSU community through listening posts, focus groups and other forms of input.
January 2022 through February 2022 | Train OSU Assist response team.
March 2022 | OSU Assist team begins receiving calls and responding to incidents.
To learn more about the OSU Assist program coordinator role, download an infographic about the position. Contact the Office of the Dean of Students to request the infographic in an alternative format.
In June 2021, the OSU Assist Advisory Group held several webinars to update the Oregon State community about the anticipated launch of OSU Assist. Watch a recording of the webinar and find details about forthcoming events below.
Lead: Aubrie Piper, Assistant Dean of Students & Director, Student Care Services
Updated August 2021
The plan is that OSU Assist will respond to calls through the dispatch 911 and the Department of Public Safety’s non-emergency number. When a call comes into 911 or the non-emergency number, dispatch will be trained to determine if it is a call that is appropriate for OSU Assist. If there is no report of violence or a weapon, and it involves a potential mental health and wellness matter, then OSU Assist may be dispatched instead of law enforcement.
No. OSU Assist plans to begin responding to calls in early 2022 and will do so in a phased approach. In the first phase, the OSU Assist Team will respond only to calls on the Corvallis campus and only during certain hours and days of the week. The hope is that someday OSU Assist will respond to calls on the Corvallis campus 24/7. It is undetermined at this time whether OSU Assist will someday respond to calls off campus. OSU Assist will explore partnerships with local mental health crisis and law enforcement agencies whereby they would offer resources to OSU students off campus.
Effective July 1, 2021, Benton County began a pilot program whereby a mental health crisis clinician and a law enforcement agent will co-respond to mental health calls. Data will be collected from this pilot program to see if this program furthers the goal of offering more appropriate resources for these types of situations.
Possibly. If someone is talking about suicide but does not have a specific plan or the immediate means to do so, OSU Assist may be called. OSU Police Department would more likely be the first responder and then call OSU Assist to the scene to offer mental health crisis assistance.
No. At this time, it is not anticipated that OSU Assist would create a need for fewer OSU police officers. Depending on the data received after the program launch, it is possible that the OSU Assist Team would be responding to such a high number of calls that the OSU Police Department could reduce the number of their officers. OSU Police, like all departments at OSU, are in a continuous process of ensuring they have the most appropriate staffing plan.
No. OSU Assist would not respond to a stand-alone noise complaint call. OSU Police Department would respond.
OSU Assist will be funded from E & G (General Education) funds.
The OSU Assist Team will be a multi-disciplinary team consisting of at least two people, one of whom will be a mental health crisis clinician. All members of the team will receive training in first response, trauma-informed care, utilization of the dispatch system, de-escalation techniques, mental health assessments, implicit bias and more. This training will be given, in addition to the OSU Assist team members previous professional training.
Not typically. The staff at the OSU residence halls will continue assisting students to resolve conflicts with roommates. However, if the situation rose to the level of conflict that the residence hall staff needed assistance and/or involved an emergency mental health issue, OSU Assist may be called to de-escalate and stabilize the situation.
No. The OSU Assist Teams will not be armed.
Possibly. The primary focus of OSU Assist is to serve students. However, the OSU Assist Team will help when called to an incident, regardless of whether the person is a student, non-student, staff or faculty.
The OSU Assist Coordinator and staff will connect students to wrap around support services either directly after stabilization of the incident and/or days after the response, whatever is most appropriate.
No. A “responsible employee” is defined as a university employee that must report any allegation of sexual misconduct or discrimination to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. The coordinator is a confidential employee and will not have these reporting obligations.
OSU Assist’s connections to campus partnerships will be essential in supporting students. OSU Assist will provide immediate care to the individuals needing support and make direct connections to other campus resources for long-term, wraparound support. OSU Assist will be in communication with these programs to ensure students have smooth transitions to wraparound services.
The creation of OSU Assist was, in part, because marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by negative experiences with law enforcement. As OSU Assist designs their services, marginalized communities are centered in this work. In developing the program, OSU Assist intends to hire team members with diverse experiences and expansive knowledge that reflects our university community.
The program will train team members to provide supportive services while recognizing the complexity of our community’s lived experiences. As the program expands, OSU Assist will continue to engage with community partners to ensure these services are accessible and supportive of LGBTQIA+ students, BIPOC students, international students, student veterans, students with disabilities and more.
OSU Assist was created to complement existing resources and programs that support students; therefore, no OSU resources or programs will change or be discontinued as a result of OSU Assist. OSU will still have the same support and safety networks in place such as Residential Life, Survivor Advocacy & Resource Center, Student Health Services and the OSU Police Department.
The Community Wellness, Education & Safety Network (CWESN), the group that created OSU Assist, hosted three community sessions for members of OSU and the Corvallis community to attend and provide questions and feedback. In the coming months, a survey will be distributed to faculty, staff, and students, that will provide another avenue for input. Anyone is also welcome to email [email protected] with additional questions or comments.
OSU Assist plans to elicit feedback from individuals who also engaged with this service to assess their experience with the outreach, support and referral efforts. OSU Assist intends to partner with a third party to develop and review this assessment to ensure the highest degree of integrity in data collection.
Yes. OSU Assist intends to provide transparent data on the types of calls, services and referrals made.
Just like any other program or resource on campus, if incidents of bias occur involving the OSU Assist program, students, staff and faculty will have the opportunity to report such incidents to the OSU Bias Response Team through the reporting protocol found on their website. OSU Assist will proactively work to eliminate any and all biases that may arise in their work.
If OSU Assist is responding to a call and the individual has experienced a bias incident, the responding personnel will connect individuals to resources such as the Bias Response Team for continued care.
If an individual on campus is navigating challenges related to housing insecurity, OSU Assist staff will likely respond and explore resources that are most appropriate to the individual. If they are not affiliated with OSU (student, faculty, staff), OSU Assist may attempt to connect them with Corvallis community resources. For students with these needs, OSU Assist will connect them with the Human Services Resources Center (HSRC) who may be able to assist.