Counselors now on-call after-hours for OSU students, staff

Sunrise over the mountains

Sunrise over campus. OSU Counseling and Psychological Services is now offering a 24-hour counseling line for students to call any time of day or night. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Students seeking after-hours support and counseling for traumatic or urgent emotional or psychological needs now have a new place to turn at OSU. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is offering after-hours crisis counseling services. To access a counselor anytime, students can call the CAPS main number, 541-737-2131.

While CAPS offers same-day appointments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday, crisis situations often arise outside of those hours. Director Jackie Alvarez said that staffing CAPS 24/7 was cost prohibitive, but she recently became aware of a service housed in Portland that provides after-hours counseling to a number of organizations, including University of Oregon and the Benton County Mental Health Department.

CAPS now contracts with ProtoCall, and when students or staff call the hotline, they will speak with a licensed mental health professional. The professional can not only help them through their crisis but can refer them to on-campus resources, and can if necessary put them in contact with other experts or officials on campus, so the experience is essentially seamless.

“They worked with our organization to develop protocols for what we want to have happen in virtually every type of situation,” Alvarez said.

Callers will not only get immediate help, but will then have the option to have follow-up support from CAPS staff when they return during the next business day, so that help is on-going, rather than a one-time event.

For most counseling needs, Alvarez wants students to continue to access her office during daily appointments, but recognizes that students may have a situation arise that needs immediate attention.

“This service is for urgent concerns that can’t wait until the next day,” Alvarez said.

Faculty and staff also have access to counselors through the 24-hour line. If they are working with a student who, in the moment, appears to be experiencing emotional or psychological issues such as panic attacks, severe depression, or vague suicidal thoughts, among other issues, they can call the line after hours to get advice on how to handle the situation. And while the service is primarily aimed at students, the after-hours counselors will serve anyone with a mental health crisis who utilizes the number, including faculty and staff. Parents with concerns about their OSU student are also encouraged to call if an urgent issue arises.

The counselors will assess the caller’s level of concern, identify appropriate interventions to de-escalate the crisis, plan for safety, and help the students get connected to resources that will help them long-term. In addition, the mental health professionals will be able to work with campus personnel to assure that students in who are at great risk of harming themselves or others receive immediate assistance.

CAPS hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Staff begin taking appointments at 8:30 a.m., and students can call 541-737-2131 (the same number as the after-hours hotline) to schedule.

~ Theresa Hogue



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