Responding to Students of Concern

Best Practices for Behavioral Intervention Teams

Topics: Student Affairs, Student Health and Wellness, Mental Health and Counseling, Student Health Centers, Alcohol and Drug Use, Student Experience, Special Populations, Academic Support Programs

Branding One-Stop Referrals

Diagnostic Questions

The following questions are designed to guide members in evaluating their current referral process. Based on the number of affirmative responses, each member will fall into one of the categories on the opposite page. These categories can be used to identify tactics particularly well suited to member circumstances. Note: questions should be answered from the perspective of the BIT Chair.

1. Does a single person or team receive information about students of concern from faculty and staff?
2. Can referrers communicate with this person or team through multiple channels (e.g., web form, email, phone)?
3. Is information about referral channels housed on a dedicated BIT page within your institution’s website?
4. Do referrers receive confirmation that their referral has been received and will be reviewed within a specified period of time?
5. If the original confirmation consists of an automated email, do you subsequently send a personalized email or call referrers to solicit additional information and reassure them that their concerns are being actively investigated?
6. Throughout the months following the referral, do you periodically touch base with referrers to ask about new developments and to communicate that your BIT is continuing to monitor the case?
7. Do you review aggregated case data to identify departments or units from which you receive the fewest referrals?
8. Do you use referral data to offer targeted programming and training to the departments and units that submit the fewest referrals?

Understanding Your Current State

Number of Yes Responses

0-2 Not Coordinated: Referrers receive little or no guidance on where and how to communicate their concerns, either due to inconsistent messaging or the lack of a single point of contact for referrals. Upon submitting a concern, referrers receive no confirmation that their concerns are being investigated, nor are they asked to relay further developments in the case to administrators.

The Forum recommends that teams in this category immediately implement a Central Point of Contact in order to consolidate information about students of concern and better coordinate the BIT’s response. A well-developed and informative online portal is particularly essential to widening the referral pipeline.

3-4 Minimally Coordinated: Referrers receive some guidance on submitting referrals, but they still struggle to identify a single point of contact for their concerns. While an automated email may assure referrers that their concerns are being investigated, ongoing communication is extremely limited, undermining the information-gathering process.

The Forum urges teams in this category to focus on short-term strategies for Post-Referral Communication such as auto-reply emails or quick follow-up phone calls, to increase the usefulness of preliminary information and to build referrer trust in the team’s response.

5-6 Moderately Coordinated: Referrers receive extensive information about communicating concerns to a single person or team, though awareness of this resource may still not yet be universal. Administrators contact referrers for a follow-up conversation after the submission of a concern, and may touch base periodically over the subsequent months.

The Forum advises teams in this category to invest in long-term tactics for Post-Referral Communication to demonstrate how the group manages students of concern over an extended period of time.

7-8 Highly Coordinated: Awareness of where and how to submit concerns approaches 100% on campus. Administrators conduct both short- and long-term follow-up with referrers to build trust in the referral process and to aid information-gathering efforts. Referral data is fully integrated into strategic outreach plans, thereby ensuring that training goes to the departments most in need of it.

The Forum encourages teams in this category to further refine their data collection and assessment efforts by implementing a Referral Gap Analysis to more accurately identify and support departments in the greatest need of training.

“I Am Concerned. Who Do I Contact?”

Potential Referrers Typically Face an Array of Choices

Forum research illustrates how BITs must build awareness of a single referral contact to be successful in their work. The status quo at most institutions, however, is that a person looking to make a referral is faced with a bewildering set of choices and options. Presenting referrers with a seemingly endless list of telephone numbers and units causes confusion and in some cases deters referrals.

Referrers may choose not to report their concerns rather than alert the wrong campus unit or they may default to calling the counseling center which (due to privacy laws) may inhibit information-sharing across campus.

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Widening the Referral Pipeline

Institutions Set Up Multiple Channels

To make referrals as easy as possible, the Forum recommends designating a single point of contact for referrals and clearly identifying the channels through which referrers may submit concerns. There are a variety of channels available to collect information including phone hotlines, team email addresses, and online forms.

While BITs might be tempted to rely solely on a single channel for referrals such as email, interviewees stressed that some referrers (particularly faculty members) still want the ability to connect with somebody either in person or via phone.

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Recalibrating Training Outreach

Practice #3: Central Point of Contact