May 24, 2024

In Case of Non-Emergencies: The Care and Intervention Team is Here

The Michigan State University Office of Support and Accountability (OSSA) introduced the Care and Intervention Team this past August. To ensure the safety and well-being of the MSU community, the team takes a collaborative and proactive approach to identifying, preventing, assessing, intervening and reducing threats. 

The “care” portion of the Care and Intervention Team (CAIT) consists of a team of four nonclinical case managers: 

  • Jessica Scott-Nehls, Office of Student Support and Accountability 
  • Charletta Mims, Office of Student Support and Accountability 
  • Detective Sydnee Zienta, MSU Department of Police and Public Safety 
  • Gabrielle Barnett, Office of Student Support and Accountability 

Their focus is to provide resources to the impacted parties while also supporting the person of concern. 

A Typical Day 

Each morning, the case managers meet to review reports that have been submitted over the past 24 hours. Referrals come in regularly, and though the team receives email notifications of new referrals, they take time each morning to divvy up the latest cases.  

Reports are divided among the team by who is best suited to deal with each case. Submitted cases can range from homesickness to threats and everything in between. When a referral mentions a potential safety risk to the reporter or to others, that’s when Detective Zienta steps in.  

“There's not really like a hard and fast rule,” Zienta says. “It’s some of those higher threat or risk situations or if there is any kind of legal component … The conversations cover not only the rules and laws but also ‘how are you doing’ and ‘how are you coping?’” 

After the cases are divided, the managers individually reach out to the reporters to get additional information. From there, they then plan their method of outreach to the referred Spartan. 

“Typically, we'll start with an email communication unless it's urgent,” adds Scott-Nehls. “We’ll send them resources that link to the concern that arose through the referral, and then we'll encourage them to find a time to meet with us. We’re available in person and virtually.” 

To Report or Not to Report 

Case managers are tasked with advocating for and empowering individuals faced with challenges during their time at MSU to help them address barriers to their well-being and success. There are a multitude of situations where an individual may need help with said challenges. 

“A faculty member may reach out about students who just stopped attending class, and perhaps they’re nonresponsive,” says Scot-Nehls. “Parents sometimes reach out. So, we've had parents connect in terms of their students who are hospitalized and what additional steps they might need or how they can help to guide their student.” 

Referral topics can range from a disagreement between roommates to a student expressing suicidal ideation. However, it’s important to note CAIT is not emergency care.  

No Emergencies Please 

“One challenge we face is folks who are in an emergency situation reach out to us, and we are not the appropriate party,” Mims notes. 

As the case managers only check reports once a day, they are not able to react to reports during an emergency.  

“We are not monitoring those 24/7,” says Zienta. “People oftentimes think, ‘I filled out the form, so it’s all taken care of. But the reports get checked once a day. What we promise to do is check once a day, not as they come in.” 

“I feel like we've had some trial by error,” Scot-Nehls adds. “We've modified language on our website and referral form after getting a number of folks thinking we do welfare checks. We want to be very clear about what our role is.” 

In a situation where a wellness check is needed, or there is an immediate health risk, those calls should always be directed to 911. 

New Opportunities 

The introduction of the CAIT gave the case managers new ways to support the students of MSU.  

“Students and staff and faculty can be faced with so many different challenges during their time here, whether they’re working or whether they’re here as students,” says Scott-Nehls. “And just making sure that they have folks who are in their corner and helping them get connected to resources as needed was something that intrigued me.” 

As a former Michigan State University student, Mims says she’s proud to fight the “struggling college student” stereotype. So often, issues students face and their perspectives are dismissed as “part of the college experience.”  

“Whether they're facing housing insecurity, health and well-being concerns, or financial concerns, we can really help,” says Mims. “There's this unit to help them get connected and find the resources for success. I’m grateful to be a part of the solution.” 

Being able to see students they helped graduate also gives the team members an immense amount of satisfaction. 

“You don’t normally go through a crisis once. I found joy and return in following up on cases,” says Zienta. “Seeing a student go through something as a freshman, and then in their junior year and they’re still having problems … And then seeing that student when I’m working graduation in uniform, and seeing them graduate — it’s nice in that aspect.” 

There for Each Other 

With all the challenges that come with a job in a high-stress environment, the team has emphasized the importance of decompressing after each day. 

Through podcasts on their drives home to talking about the day with one another, the team makes sure to find ways to take care of themselves and each other. This support is not just found within their tightknit group. They have also found support from their colleagues. 

“The support received from our other colleagues who are not necessarily on the care team has been helpful,” says Mims. “We are truly valued. We’re respected.” 

Ensuring Campus Safety

When it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community, CAIT plays a crucial role here at MSU. A form where reports are submitted can be found on

The team will review reports within 24 hours and will reach out to discuss the next steps. Remember, the team is here to help, and no concern is too small for them.  

For situations where there is an immediate health risk or a wellness check is needed, call 911. 

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