All across the country college wellness and counseling centers are dealing with an increasing number of students with suicidal thoughts. Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida is no exception. The Counseling and Psychological Services (“CAPS”) at Rollins Wellness Center adapted the CAMS protocol as the assessment and treatment method for suicidal clients in May of 2016.
Prior to May 2016 counselors and trainees were trained to utilize a thorough clinical interview and suicide assessment scale to evaluate the severity of the client’s suicidal thoughts. Focus of the session was to assess the degree of risk, stabilize, create a safety plan, and engage clients’ personal resources. If the client could not commit to safety and become stabilized, the client would be encouraged to go to a crisis stabilization and receiving unit (hospital). If the client would not voluntarily go to the hospital, a decision would be made to hospitalize the client through the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows people with mental illnesses to be held involuntarily for up to 72 hours in a mental health treatment facility if they meet certain criteria.
Research shows that clients are more at risk for completing suicide after involuntary hospitalization. Additionally, the Baker Act requires the client to be restrained in handcuffs during the transport to the hospital. This can be a traumatic experience for an 18-25-year-old whose mental health is already compromised.
Connie Briscoe became the Director of the Wellness Center in 2014. Connie is a psychologist and accredited QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) trainer. Connie believed in a more structured, peer-reviewed, and researched instrument to be the standard way for counselors to determine the level of risk with students with suicide ideation. Connie and Nadine Clarke, Assistant Director of Counseling/Clinical Coordinator chose the CAMS (Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality) Framework and presented the instrument to counselors at CAPS. Nadine purchased Dr. Jobes first book on CAMS for all counselors and incoming interns in May of 2015. All full-time counselors were individually trained through Dr. Jobes’ training videos. Nadine trained incoming interns at their orientation in August and CAMS became the official assessment and treatment method for elevated, high-risk suicide ideation.
Nadine attended the American Association of Suicidality Conference in May of 2016 and met Dr. Jobes. She had the opportunity to ask him specific questions on the use of CAMS with Cluster B diagnosis and other difficult situations. Upon her return to the college, Nadine worked with Connie and the college’s risk management office to secure more in-depth live training. Dr. Kevin Crowley trained the staff in the use of CAMS on January 17, 2017. CAPS also purchased 12-one-hour phone consultations with Kevin. Kevin provided those consultations on an as-needed basis during the clinical group supervision period. This proved helpful in deepening the understanding of CAMS as a treatment in working with clients.
All full-time permanent counseling staff have a copy of Dr. Jobes 2nd Edition Managing Suicidal Risk, a Collaborative Approach, and incoming interns and temporary or part-time counselors are trained in the proper use of CAMS. They are also provided with a copy of Dr. Jobes’ book.
Nadine says, “CAMS provides a common language and framework for talking about suicide with students. The Student Affairs division and student leaders understand that students are getting help if that student mentions CAMS. The off-site 24-hour auxiliary counselors have been trained to ask if someone has a “Stabilization Plan” if that student talks about working with a CAPS counselor.” Through the use of CAMS the need to initiate the Baker Act is significantly reduced, and the process is well documented with the entire Suicide Status Form CAMS package. The Rollins Wellness Center has avoided hospitalization for all but the most severe cases, and almost all who have been hospitalized have done so voluntarily.
If you would like to learn more about implementing CAMS in your College or University Counseling Center, please contact Dr. Kevin Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org