One University’s Path Towards Supporting More Students

August 28, 2023

One University’s Path Towards Supporting More Students

Amaura Kemmerer, LICSW 
Executive Vice President of Client Engagement 

Like so many institutions of higher education across the United States, Salem State University has doubled down on their efforts to support the ever-growing mental health and wellness needs of their students. Salem State has a highly diverse student population with a significant percentage of students managing jobs and family responsibilities while attending classes. Coming to a traditional on-campus counseling center to access support is not always feasible for Salem State students when they’re struggling, nor is mental health counseling indicated for every student who experiences personal challenges. Liz Fell, Associate Director of Counseling and Health Services, explained that one of her primary goals at Salem State has been to shift the emphasis of campus wellness and mental health efforts from crisis support to more preventative and stepped-care interventions. This has resulted in a multi-pronged strategy to reach more students with meaningful and relevant solutions. Here are the three major areas in which Salem State has worked to enhance their capacity to reach more students:  

Re-Envisioning Triage  

Fell noticed a trend of overreliance on the counseling center as the entry point for any student concern. This led not only to wait times at the counseling center, but also to clinicians managing student issues (housing and food insecurity, academic problem, etc.) that were better suited to other campus supports. To try to mitigate the demand on the counseling center while better serving students, Salem State expanded their student wellness case management team. This team receives all “care and concern” reports about students and then assesses the need(s) of each individual student. Faculty and staff can make a “care and concern” report when a student has shared that they are struggling or when they are otherwise worried about a student. Led by a clinician and staffed by interns and other student affairs staff, this team offers crisis assessment and case management. Through the student wellness case management team’s efforts, students may be referred to on- and off-campus resources like food pantries, specific offices on campus that may help resolve their problems, or the counseling center if the student could benefit from mental health support. As a result, many students get connected to the resources they need without needing to go to the counseling center.  

In addition to broadening their case management team, the Salem State University Counseling Center shifted from a mental health triage model with dedicated blocks for emergencies only to offering same-day, 30-minute intake assessments. This transition to same-day appointments has both fast-tracked students who may need to be referred for treatment outside of the counseling center and provided a path to one-time in-the-moment support for students who don’t need ongoing counseling.   

Partnering with Christie Campus Health  

Salem State’s proactive efforts to secure both federal and state grant funding have paid dividends in increasing student support. A federal ARPA has helped fund the partnership between Salem State and Christie Campus Health, one of the nation’s leading providers of mental health services for college and university students. Through this partnership, Salem State now offers a 24/7 Clinical Support Line, enabling students to reach a licensed mental health counselor at any time, from any location. Access to the 24/7 Clinical Support Line helps deescalate students in crisis and mitigates the need for campus counseling center clinicians to be on-call after hours as well as for public safety/law enforcement officers to be first responders in situations in which students may just need access to mental health support.  

Students also have access to the leading digital Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) program, SilverCloud, a self-paced program for a variety of student concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety, sleep, stress, and alcohol use) that can be used to supplement counseling or as an alternative for students who aren’t ready or comfortable speaking to a counselor. SilverCloud reports that 85% of users experience improvement in their symptoms.   

And finally, students who need or want weekly counseling, weekend, or evening appointments, or who may choose not to go to the counseling center, can access counseling services through Christie Campus Health. Christie enables students to choose a provider based on various categories including clinical specialty, as well as gender, racial, and ethnic preferences, removing important barriers to care. While some students don’t need sessions with a licensed mental health clinician to resolve the challenges they experience, it is critical that students who need clinical support can access it without long wait times or financial barriers like copayments.    

Focusing on Prevention  

With the goal of building out preventative efforts, Salem State has hired multi-cultural and LGBTQIA+ specialists. They have also been experimenting with an embedded care model, sending wellness staff to student spaces to increase comfort and create access to a resource before students are in crisis. One example of this is including clinical staff in student-athlete facilities, making it easier for athletes to get support in their own spaces.  Liz Fell explained that she has been enhancing training and prevention efforts with faculty and staff, as well. This has included bringing expert trainers on eating disorder treatment to teach counseling staff best practices in supporting students, as well as training wellness and residence life staff on substance use trends and prevention efforts that impact student mental health. Salem State has also partnered with MindWise Innovations to offer a variety of campus-wide suicide prevention training programs and psychological first aid training for faculty and staff, with the goal to increase mental health literacy and teach intervention and referral skills.   

The foresight to pursue state and federal grant dollars opened the door to new innovations in mental health and wellness support at Salem State. Alongside the case management team, same-day 30-minute supportive sessions at the counseling center, and the addition of adjunctive services through Christie Campus Health, Salem State has eliminated wait times at the counseling center and connected more students to the support that they need. And like every campus, there is always more room for prevention and Salem State has much underway in this arena with plans to enhance education and intervention services on a wide array of college student wellness related concerns.  

Christie Campus Health is pleased to serve over 750,000 college students across the United States and internationally. Christie’s services include a 24/7 Clinical Support Line, face-to-face and virtual counseling visits, psychiatric prescribing, clinically validated self-care resources, and student care Navigators with a customized approach to meet the unique needs of every institution.


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