Help during a crisis

Resources

Campus Public Safety Office
www.pdx.edu/cpso/
Emergency: 503-725-4404
Dispatch Email: cpso@pdx.edu

 

Dean of Student Life Office
www.pdx.edu/dos/
503-725-4422
AskDos@pdx.edu

 

Submit a C.A.R.E. Report

 

Portland State can feel like a large and complex institution, and when students are facing a crisis, it can be hard to know where to turn for help. PSU’s C.A.R.E. Team (Coordination Assessment Response Education) connects students with resources when they are experiencing distress and/or other issues that might impact their ability to function at their best in and outside of the classroom.

“The C.A.R.E. Team uses a systems approach to consider the constellation of issues that might be negatively impacting a student or the larger campus community,” says Michele Toppe, Associate Vice President for Students Affairs and Dean of Student Life. A residence hall advisor might contact the team with concern about a student who has become isolated, or a faculty member might reach out about a disruption occurring in the classroom. The number of cases handled by the C.A.R.E. Team varies from year to year. In the first two weeks of Fall term, there were 48 individual cases.

Students who are experiencing difficulties should contact the Dean of Student Life office, or in an emergency, they should call Campus Safety. Often cases can be resolved quickly by one of these offices, but if a situation is complex, then the C.A.R.E. Team will get involved. The team meets once a week to discuss cases in progress, but if there’s an emergency, the team can be convened any time. “I’m the convener of the team,” says Toppe. “The whole team is available for consultation and response on a 24/7 basis.”

The C.A.R.E. Team was formed in 2003 after the 21-year-old son of U.S. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon killed himself while studying in Utah. Smith made an effort to destigmatize mental health issues and encourage college campuses to be proactive about helping their students through moments of crisis. “My office started meeting weekly with Student Health and Counseling,” says Toppe. “There was seed money, but also a national conversation that we were part of.”

Four years later, a Virginia Tech University student killed 32 people and wounded 17 others before killing himself. Colleges nationwide developed multi-disciplinary teams to work to prevent another such tragedy from occurring. “Our team pivoted to become that team at PSU,” says Toppe. In addition to Toppe, the C.A.R.E. team’s regular members now include C.A.R.E. Case Manager Brian Paez who also works in the Office of the Dean of Student Life, as well as representatives from Campus Public Safety, Student Health and Counseling, Conduct and Community Standards, Women’s Resource Center, and Housing and Residence Life.

In addition to responding to crises, the team takes steps to help support students before problems arise or issues become more complicated. This fall, the team sent letters to students whose home addresses were in areas affected by the year’s catastrophic hurricanes and fires, offering them assistance returning to campus if they needed it. A few students asked for help with furniture, because all of their belongings had been destroyed. Another student had planned to go home for a visit before school started in September, but there was no longer a home to go to. The C.A.R.E. Team helped him move into University Pointe for that span of time. The C.A.R.E. Team also assists students as they navigate university processes when they encounter major life circumstances, such as the death of family member, or illness, or an emergency medical procedure.

“I hope students know that the C.A.R.E. Team and the other resources are here to support their success, both academically and personally,” says Toppe. “They don’t need to know specifically what they’re looking for. If they need help in navigating campus resources or have any complex issues and they’re not sure what to do, they should come to the Office of the Dean of Student Life.”