Make Your Threat Assessment Team Effective: Part 1

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This is the first of two articles offering practical advice on making behavioral intervention teams effective. The second article, which will focus on five pitfalls to avoid, will appear in late August. An abbreviated version of this article appeared in an earlier edition of Higher Ed Impact.

August 4, 2011. In today's difficult economic climate, most institutions of higher education are facing significant reductions in counseling and mental health budgets at a time when the mental health needs of students, faculty, and staff are on the rise. In a recent survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, 77 percent of counseling center directors indicated that the number of students on campus with severe mental health issues had increased in the past year. And while most available studies focus on student mental health, last year's shooting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville offers a tragic reminder that faculty and staff may also face mental health issues.

We asked Gene Deisinger, deputy chief of police and director of threat management services at Virginia Tech, for his advice on how to establish early behavioral intervention teams or threat assessment teams when challenged to do more with existing resources. Deisinger is both a police officer and a clinical psychologist, and has been involved with such teams for over 15 years. He offers these three tips:

  • Define your team's mission and purpose clearly
  • Do more with what you already have by finding opportunities for greater collaboration between departments that provide resources and services to students
  • Cultivate a sense of shared purpose


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