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Jan. 31, 2024

Shifting how we respond to students in distress

A new multi-disciplinary team at Michigan State University combines behavioral threat assessment and behavioral intervention teams to better intervene and lead with care, marking a shift in the way help is provided to students and staff in distress.

Three separate teams at MSU—the student Behavioral Threat Assessment team, the employee Behavioral Threat Assessment team, and the student Behavioral Intervention team—have been combined into the Care and Intervention team. The goal is to lead with care and intervene with care before the need for threat assessment services.  

“If there is an element of mental health where someone may be struggling, we want to make sure that we can support that individual and put them on the path to success at MSU,” said Josh Durbin, associate director of the Office of Student Support and Accountability. “For students, we want to make sure that they are able to pursue their academics. If there are obstacles interfering with their ability to be academically successful, then we want to connect them with support. It’s the same thing with employees, if there is something preventing them from being successful and we can support them, then that is absolutely what we want to do.”

Because the three teams often worked with the same students and many of the staff serving were serving on multiple teams, there was a need to consolidate the teams. Consolidating the three teams would better streamline the services provided to students and staff, Durbin said.

The consolidation and creation of the Care and Intervention team allows staff to follow best practices when helping students and staff in distress and helps ensure those distressed individuals are working with a team ready and capable of helping them. 

Before the creation of the team, Durbin said the Behavioral Threat Assessment team was housed within the MSU Police Department, often requiring police partners to go above and beyond in helping and reaching out to some individuals who were not necessarily an immediate threat, but who were struggling. That responsibility should not fall soley to the police who should be allowed to focus on protecting the MSU community, he said. Now the Care and Intervention team can assume that role.

The creation of the Care and Intervention team means staff can rethink how to best respond to individuals in distress. Before, a police officer would be responsible for reaching out to the person in distress, Durbin said. But now, a member of the Care and Intervention team will reach out with the support of a team of case managers with backgrounds in social work to help the individual and address the concerns that person might have. 

The Care and Intervention team also revised the intake process by looking to the Office of Student Support and Accountability to handle referrals rather than the MSU Police Department. And it created a non-clinical case management team dedicated to responding to student concerns that will be tasked with addressing intake, following up with reporting parties, providing referrals to other offices, directing case management, and coordinating with other units. 

The Care and Intervention team is a multi-disciplinary team comprised of partners from a number of campus groups like MSU Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS), the Graduate School, the Office for Undergraduate Education, MSU Office for Civil Rights and Title IX, MSU Office for International Students and Scholars, MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, Residence Education and Housing Services, Employee Assistance Program, Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs, Human Resources, MSU Department of Police and Public Safety and Office of General Counsel.

“The Care and Intervention Team is here to help. That may mean different things for different people,” Durbin said. “We may not necessarily be able to guarantee a result, but we will absolutely guarantee a process and that process is helping people to navigate toward success.”

Learn more about the Care and Intervention team at


By Mark Johnson