By Samantha Pirc
Adding to a menu of mental health services for students, Ohio University is now offering a 24-hour crisis intervention hot line.
After dialing the Counseling and Psychological Services main number (740-593-1616), callers are connected to a representative at CPS or, after business hours, to ProtoCall Services in Portland, Ore., where specially trained counselors in telephone crisis intervention will talk with the student and direct him or her to additional resources on campus. The program is funded by WellBeing, a waivable student health care option. Calls are free for all students, including those not enrolled in WellBeing.
Counseling and Psychological Services offers such mental health services as group and individual counseling, psychiatric consultations, eating disorder treatment and drug and alcohol intervention. While emergency help for students always has been available day or night, officials said the ProtoCall service supplements existing university resources.
About 20 universities currently use ProtoCall's service, Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi said.
"ProtoCall has been very responsive and willing to work within our protocols and address anything we felt important," Lombardi said.
He noted that university officials and Student Senate President Michael Adeyanju spoke with officials and students at other schools that use ProtoCall and "everything we heard was positive."
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jeanne Heaton said the university has provided ProtoCall with specific information about the campus community, including student demographics, maps of the campus, photos and details of other university offerings that provide academic and emotional support so that ProtoCall counselors have the tools available to work with students.
In an emergency situation, ProtoCall will immediately contact the appropriate on-campus personnel, which may include the Ohio University Police Department, Counseling and Psychological Services or the Office of the Dean of Students' on-call staff.
"They are really working hard for us," Heaton said of the ProtoCall team. "Ninety-five percent of the calls they have taken for us have been answered within five rings."
Since October, when the line became operational, 239 calls for assistance have been answered by ProtoCall, with 151 of those coming in January and February when a marketing effort raised visibility of the offering via posters in residence halls, table tents in dining halls and Baker University Center, and information online.
Students who call the hot line are asked to provide basic demographic information but are not pressed if they wish to remain anonymous. Whether students provide a name or not, brief summaries of all calls are relayed to Counseling and Psychological Services so it can follow up if necessary or if the student requests it.
The hot line is not intended to replace any services on campus, Lombardi said.
"Any time a student lets us know they need help, we are here," Lombardi said. "Nothing has changed with this. It is simply an augmentation to an already very strong emergency-response system. We don't ever want a student to feel like they don't have options to seek help when they need it."