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Gulf Bend assigns mental health counselor to Victoria College campus

Oct. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.

Lane Johnson

Gulf Bend Center has partnered with Victoria College to provide mental health services to students.

A qualified mental health professional will be assigned to the campus once a week and/or as needed to provide services to students.

These services will include proactive intervention strategies through workshops and presentations plus extended counseling and crisis intervention services.

"At Gulf Bend, we are pleased and excited to be able to add Victoria College to our list of community partners," said Lane Johnson, Gulf Bend's director of clinical programs and services. "It enables us to fill in some of the gaps we are running across in the community. We are keenly interested in partnering and collaborating with other groups or entities."

According to the agreement, Victoria College and Gulf Bend will collaborate and coordinate resource deployment to meet the mental health needs of Victoria College students.

"The partnership with Gulf Bend will be another resource that will be available for students to help them when they encounter life issues that may derail their educational goals," said Florinda Correa, VC vice president of student services. "Although VC has qualified counselors on staff, there are times when it is necessary to refer students to a community resource for additional support. Now, students will be able to access services without having to leave campus."

According to the agreement, Victoria College will provide office space for the Gulf Bend mental health professional. That office is located in the Student Services Building, Room 100. VC counselors will initiate the student referral and collaborate with the Gulf Bend professional to identify strategies and support services to meet the needs of the student.

Johnson said VC initiated the partnership, having worked with him in the past.

"Over the past few years from time to time, Victoria College has called me to help with critical incident debriefings, to work with students and staff to help them process and deal with emotions," he said.

One of the critical incidents Johnson was called in to assist was the September 2011 event in which shots were fired inside the VC Sports Center. No one was injured, and the suspect was quickly apprehended.

Last year, Gulf Bend Center developed a similar relationship with the Victoria school district, providing case managers and counselors as needed.

"That partnership is a model for the arrangement with Victoria College," Johnson said.

"There are still a lot of people who feel reluctant to seek counseling," he added. "They're worried about the stigma associated with seeing a counselor. With the presence of a counselor on campus, that person becomes associated with the college as much, or more so, than with Gulf Bend Center. This reduces the stigma."

Staff and faculty will also benefit from having a Gulf Bend counselor located on campus, Correa added. "Being on campus will allow the counselor to interact with staff and faculty and become a valuable resource for them. The counselor will also gain a perspective into the lives of college students. We envision this partnership to develop into another exceptional service for not only our students, but everyone involved."

Dawn Barela, a licensed clinical social worker at Gulf Bend Center, began working Sept. 18 as the campus counselor.

But, she won't necessarily be the only counselor utilized, Johnson said. Barela will be on campus every Wednesday and will be available on an as-needed basis.

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