Mental health services under pressure

By Marissa Moreno
Student Health & Psychological Services

Riverside City College’s Student Health and Psychological Services located in the Bradshaw Building. Elizabeth Tovar llamas | Viewpoints

The first week of the spring semester at Riverside City College was more than a nightmare.

The shooting in Parkland, Florida has inevitably forced the Riverside Unified School District to check every potential threat towards its campuses, and for Riverside City College this came shortly after an unfortunate on-campus apparent suicide that took place on the first day of school.

“A seemingly endless series of tragic events in campuses and in adjacent communities only serve to reinforce the need for us to design new, innovative, cooperative and holistic approaches that enhance campus wellbeing,” Michael Huey, current president of the American College Health Association, said in a video of the Mental Health Symposium held in Dec. 2017.

At RCC, students seeking help or support in the wake of the recent shocking events can either make appointments at the Health Center or attend weekly Wellness Workshops. However just how confident do they feel seeking out the services provided on campus.

“I’m not that confident because I feel like they wouldn’t really help me with my problems,” Alexa Vazquez, an RCC student, said. “But I haven’t really tried it. It’s what I have heard from other students, or in general it’s what you hear even from other schools.”

Troy Paino, President of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia explained how he keeps track of the quality and efficacy of the health services offered in his campus.

“We bring in the Director of Counseling and we talk about the trends that we’re seeing, our response and what are the best practices and what we’re learning,” he said in the video.

Renee Martin-Thornton, Director of the Health Center at RCC, declined to comment on how the Health Center keeps track of and accommodates RCC student needs.

Whether the services offered have been adjusted to fit student‘s needs or not remains unclear. Similarly, it is unclear whether any proactive attempts to promote health services have proved successful.

During the American College Health Association symposium, the presidents and chancellors also discussed limitations in training with staff and faculty. Paino said that he believes that staff and faculty training should be a priority in colleges along with health services and resources.

“We focus often times narrowly on the counselors to be the saviors for all of our problems. Send (the students) to the counseling center and let’s hope that that takes care of it, but we know that’s not gonna solve it, so we have to really prepare faculty,” Paino said in a video.

Denise Kruizenga-Muro, lead instructor of the Writing and Reading Center at RCC, explained that newly-hired staff receive diversity and cultural sensitivity training.

However, due to budget cuts Kruizenga-Muro states that RCC staff is not as trained as often as they would like and the trainings that are available to staff are not mandatory.

Kruizenga-Muro also said that the Behavioral Intervention Resource Team had had a past collaborative effort between staff and administrators to identify behaviors of concern in students. 

Their goal was to positively affect student retention and safety. She explained that BIRT membership had changed and that it no longer included staff.

“I’m sad that it no longer includes those of us in the frontlines, not that officers and the people in the Health Center are not in the frontlines, but sometimes (the staff) would hear about things first, before they became a problem,” she said.

While it is unclear whether the changes made to the BIRT team affected the retention and safety rates, one thing is clear, the RCC community is not as involved as it once was.