No one should ever feel alone in a time of crisis

Because of OSU Assist’s care and support, they won’t have to.  

For many people, going through a stressful or difficult time can feel incredibly scary and isolating. That’s why Oregon State developed OSU Assist — a mobile crisis response program that brings a pair of trained responders directly to those who need help — to provide comfort, a listening ear and additional resources.

Calls are filtered through the Department of Public Safety’s campus dispatch to address the severity of the concern and are directed either to an OSU Assist crisis responder or campus emergency resource. As long as the reports do not include weapons, threats of violence or an immediate medical emergency, OSU Assist will respond. Some common situations include the death of a family member, mental health crises like suicidal ideation, harassment and sexual assault.

Each response is consent-based, meaning the person seeking support can always say no to the options they are provided, giving them the power to have control of their situation.

“Being a source of compassion and nonjudgement is something students can expect when they reach out to us,” says Javier Ortega, an OSU Assist crisis responder.

Tawn Christians, who is also an OSU Assist crisis responder, says another part of xir role is being culturally competent.

“We focus on being aware of what’s happening nationally and on a global scale, to give context about what people may be experiencing,” xi says. And that goes for both worldwide issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as the cultural stigmas of reaching out for help.

Another way OSU Assist team members put people’s minds at ease is by wearing plain clothing instead of a uniform — to show they are approachable and welcoming.

And the OSU Assist team can provide support for any situation, big or small.

“It doesn’t have to be something really intense,” Ortega says. “Sometimes it’s the first time this has happened to someone, and they need a little bit of help figuring out what to do next.”

If the person asking for help does require an additional resource, they will often be referred to campus partners like Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services or community resources like the Early Assessment and Support Alliance and Benton County Health Department.

Kelly Hower, executive director of Student Health Services, says the OSU Assist team has been an incredible resource.

“We have patients who arrive in crisis, unsure of where to go and who to talk to,” she says. "The OSU Assist team has been able to help support students and the Student Health clinical staff as we get them to the right level of care that they need. Whether that is getting them in with our psychiatrist and being a friendly face to sit and talk with while they wait, helping them get to CAPS, or even the hospital if needed.”

In addition to responding to a variety of situations, the OSU Assist team can help anyone who is physically located on campus, even if they aren’t associated with the university — from opposing team’s football fans to kids’ summer camps to community members touring campus. 

Through all of their work with OSU Assist, Christians and Ortega say simply being there, to listen and bear witness to what’s happening, makes the biggest impact.

“I’m honored to be with people during some of the most challenging and difficult times they’ve experienced,” Christians says. “I see it as something precious I get to be a part of.”