There’s nothing like being prepared.
On Friday, March 22, Cal State Long Beach’s (CSULB) Project OCEAN will host a pair of two-hour, campus violence prevention workshops in collaboration with Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH).
A morning workshop is open to all faculty, staff and administrators and will be held from 10 a.m. to noon with an afternoon session for students taking place from 2 to 4 p.m. Both free workshops will be held in Room 205 of the campus’ University Student Union
The faculty/staff/administrator workshop will focus on how to manage students who may show signs of threatening behavior. The student workshop will focus on learning what to look for and where to report suspicious behaviors.
“We’re collaborating with the Department of Mental Health in L.A. County to bring in an expert who has been doing this for many years,” said Jennifer Young, a psychologist in CSULB’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), who also serves as the Project OCEAN coordinator. “Given all the things that have been in the media lately, we’ve had a number of staff and faculty communicate that they are concerned about what they should do if they identify threats and who they should report those threats to.
“Without preparation, these concerns can lead to stress. Part of mental health is prevention. If we can learn how to prevent violence from happening by preparing our campus and coming together as a community, we can support the mental health of our campus,” she continued. “And so we decided to take it on and coordinate a program for our faculty, staff, administrators and students.”
At the workshops those in attendance will be given a presentation by Tony Beliz, deputy director of LACDMH’s Emergency Outreach Bureau (EOB). His presentation will highlight best practices in identifying individuals who may be seen as a threat and managing threatening situations on campus, including violent behaviors, threats and use of weapons.
Beliz’s experience with the EOB makes him an expert in field response to psychiatric emergencies, school violence scenarios, barricade/hostage situations, critical incidents and homeless issues in Los Angeles County. He has developed, supervised and coordinated psychiatric emergency services in the private and public sector.
He has also been part of the mental health response to L.A. Police Department Systemwide Mental Assessment and Response Team and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department SWAT incidents. The EOB also responds to disaster or terrorist events through the L.A. County and City Offices of Emergency Management. In addition, Beliz serves as an expert witness for the L.A. County Superior Court and expert consultant for numerous other entities.
CSULB Detective Sergeant Rick Goodwin, who has been giving presentations on campus to faculty and staff about threat assessment, will also be part of the discussion and will help identify more practical things individuals should keep in mind.
“I will discuss the threat assessment process. I will talk about reporting persons of concern and how we can deal with these concerns,” Goodwin pointed out. “The importance of these workshops is the ability to educate our community about the concerns we face in our society. These are not only concerns of our own families, but the concerns of our friends, neighbors and co-workers.
"This is why it is important to look at situations which may affect us, such as an ‘active shooter.’ We do not study such things to frighten or cause fear, but to get individuals to think about the ‘what if,’ scenario,” he added. “Unfortunately, we do have to think about these kinds of things now.”
Also speaking at the workshops will be Corrie O’Toole, counselor for the CSULB Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, who will speak about services available through her on campus. CAPS Director Brad Compliment will provide opening and closing remarks.
“I think these are two hours that will go fairly quickly,” said Young. “We are excited to have excellent speakers to address this important issue. They each have a lot of experience doing what they do. It’s exciting to see how many people are interested in attending.”
Project OCEAN is funded by the California Mental Health Services Act, a grant as a result of the passage of Prop. 63 in 2004. The grant is geared towards funding prevention and urban intervention programs on college campuses. It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis.
“Since the laws have not changed around gun ownership at this point, we need to do the best we can to learn how to protect ourselves,” Young explained. “The campus cannot control who has what or who brings what to campus, so we just try to educate people. Dr. Beliz says, ‘See something, say something.’ But we also want to be able to differentiate suspicious behavior from somebody just having a bad day, so we want to educate our campus on what the behaviors are that could indicate there could be a problem.”