Orange Coast College and Golden West’s student health programs received a grant over the summer for $250,000 to provide  training to faculty, staff and student peers to help deal with students in crisis.

The grant came from The California Mental Health Services Act which increased taxes on very wealthy Californians, according to Sylvia Worden, associate dean of student health at OCC.  

“The money is not for direct services. It’s not for me to hire a bunch more clinical psychologists or get a psychiatrist to see patients one at a time,” Worden said.

According to Worden, the grant is more for building capacity to deal with mental health issues as a whole organization.  

The grant is broken down into three parts. One part is for training which allows Worden, and the rest of the health services team to train faculty and staff on how to recognize students who are having mental health problems and how to deal with them.

“The English professors will have people write these papers just pouring their heart out essentially crying for help,” Worden said.  

So instead of professors walking a troubled student over to the health center or emailing Worden about the student, the training will give them a better understanding of how to deal with students more directly.

“Naturally, they’re people on campus that students flock to, to pour their hearts out,” Worden said. “The training will give them the tools they need to help.”

The second part of the grant focuses on peer-to-peer support.  

This component of the grant money allows the mental health department to give assistance to groups on campus that have shown a greater need for therapeutic support such as student veterans and LGBT groups.

The peer-to-peer support group on campus is called Peer Health Action Team, or PHACT.

The group will hold mental health events on campus and spread the word to OCC students that they’re here and they have a really great service, Worden said.

“As far as the peer-to-peer support groups go, our international students often will experience a very severe emotional crisis at some point during their time here,” Worden said. “They have fewer resources than our average student. The peer-to-peer helps provide them support all along so that hopefully  they don’t reach that point of total desperation.”

The third component of the grant is what Worden refers to as the Behavior Assessment Team. The team is a small group of people at OCC who respond on campus to students who may be posing a threat of safety to others.

These threats range from possible anger management to someone who is showing signs of mental illness while also expressing threats.  

The program helps the team decide what exactly the problem is that is causing this behavior and what they can, and need to, do about it.

The grant money has also allowed for six new interns to join the program working with the clinical psychologist Jack Wasserman.

Worden said there is a definite demand for mental health services at OCC.

“When I first got here in 2009, there was a waiting list for mental health services,” she said. “Last year was the first year we didn’t have a waiting list because I got us more and more interns.”

Mataya Dade, 19, an undecided major, said it is a good idea but it won’t affect her use of the service.

“It sounds good in theory, but I probably won’t end up using it just because of the grant,” Dade said.

Pumi Phipathananth, 21, a criminology major, would like to see that kind of money go toward more classes, but agrees it is a good thing.

“It’s great that the school is doing this for students,” Phipathananth said. “I think it shows they really care.”

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