UI hires student care coordinators respond to mental health crises

The University of Iowa’s campus police have hired mental health workers after the Reimagining Campus Safety Implementation Team’s work to help those on campus with mental health crises.


Grace Smith

The University of Iowa Police Station is seen on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

The University of Iowa hired three care coordinators, responsible for evaluating needs and connecting people with mental health resources.

The hiring of the care coordinators was set up by the recommendation of the Reimagining Campus Safety Action Committee and enacted by an implementation team in an effort to help students receive the help they need.

According to a statement from UI Student Life, two out of three of the care coordinators are for “providing non-law enforcement response options for mental health, basic needs, crisis intervention, and follow-up.”

Elley Mohling and Cody Howell are the two coordinators working with the UI Department of Public Safety, having started on Nov. 8. Mohling previously worked for the Johnson County Sheriff’s office as a jail alternatives administrator and will manage follow-up care for mental health concerns, according to a UI statement.

Howell spent five years working a violence prevention specialist with the Women’s Resource and Action Center and will be providing resources to students who may need more help than what UIHC can provide, the UI statement said.

Nikki Hodous, UI Office of the Dean of Students director of student care and assistance, said the care coordinators program is a collaborative effort with the UI’s student life, department of safety, and the committees.

“We were able to recently hire two staff members as student care coordinators, who will be able to have a response like, for example, mental health concerns to decentralized police from that process on campus,” Hodous said.

Before the care coordinators, campus police officers would arrive on to a scene where it was evident someone was having a mental health crisis,” Mark Bullock, interim co-director of the UI Department of Public Safety and member of the original reimagine Campus Safety Action Committee, said.

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After arriving, officers would call in mental health workers from Mobile Crisis Outreach to determine the next course of action.

With care coordinators, mental health workers are more readily available.

“We get them connected with resources that will make them successful in dealing with their mental health concerns or response to adverse situations moving forward,” Bullock said. “That’s where those community resources are better equipped.”

Bullock said that the number of cases that UIPD deals with related mental health issues is difficult to keep track of, because mental health could be one of many factors in an incident.

Bullock said that UIPD was already planning on creating a similar position in 2020, but then the Reimagining Campus Safety Committee was founded and began talking about the idea of care coordinators.

Hodous said that the care coordinators don’t only work with cases that directly involve mental health, but that anyone impacted by a serious crime can get information on resources available to them.

“​​We respond to students that are in crisis, students that are having just difficulties and challenges you’re navigating the challenges of the world,” Bullock said. “The last thing that we want to do is criminalize mental health.”