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UTHSC Hosts National Certification Course to Strengthen Services Impacting Retention and Success of Students


The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is one of two academic institutions in the country to host the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA) Case Management & Intervention Certification Course.

The course brought Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) experts, as well as more than 40 care teams and managers, from campuses across the country to the UTHSC campus to receive certification training. Attendees received hands-on, practical steps to solutions, including training on the foundational skills needed for managing and handling mental health crises; deescalating crisis events; building rapport; assessing and managing students who may be suicidal; addressing substance abuse and dependence; and approaches to engaging with students through change theory, motivational interviewing, and harm reduction.

Care teams at the UTHSC campus will use this training to continue their work in building rapport and bridging connections with students who may display at-risk behaviors in order to offer solution-focused ways to solve problems through collaboration across departments and colleges.

Kathy Gibbs attends the NaBITA training course, which brought academic institutions across the country to UTHSC to learn best practices on student behaviors.

Intervention and case management is a growing trend in higher education, with a specific focus on student behaviors, counseling, and conduct. This year, UTHSC embarked on a new initiative to address not only those areas, but also the mental health of students through preventive care and intervention.

Instead of offering counseling personnel and student mental health services in a traditional clinical setting, as is done at most campuses across the country, UTHSC chose to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and wellness by offering services through the Office of Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI).

“The training we provide to everyone who works here (SASSI), everybody, no matter what your position is, revolves around connecting and developing a relationship with the student,” said Kathy Gibbs, director of SASSI. “Connecting in a way that students know you care, you make it about them, you don’t judge, you respect them and try to meet them wherever they are.”

SASSI has been entrusted with coupling academic guidance, such as tutoring services, with mental health support. SASSI works in conjunction with a counseling psychologist and three master’s-level mental health counselors. Plans are also underway for an additional counselor, who will focus on residents or those completing programs in the UTHSC Office of Graduate Medical Education. This is a plus for students and residents pursuing health care careers, which often carry high academic expectations, tuition debt, and demanding schedules.

“Because our students are so intelligent and gifted here and because they are in the health professions, they expect quality,” Gibbs said. “So what we’ve been able to do here because of our staff is to balance developing strong relationships with students so that they trust us. They also hear what other students say about us, not just because of our relationships, but because of the quality of what we do. We take our work with the students very seriously, from what we share with students to what has worked and how we go about helping the student identify quality for them.”

The Case Management & Intervention Certification Course is one of many seminars and training workshops UTHSC will bring to campus focusing on suicide prevention training, substance abuse prevention, sexual assault prevention, and training in overall wellness and well-being. Go to SASSI for future training opportunities.