University Counseling Center, Pitt police collaborate to ‘de-escalate’ crisis calls


TPN File Photo

A Pitt police vest.

By Punya Bhasin, Assistant News Editor

The University Counseling Center and Pitt police have partnered to create a new program to provide a response from both mental health professionals and police to students in distress.

This program, called the Pittsburgh Higher Education Assessment and Response Team (HEART), aims to “de-escalate crisis situations to ensure that the least restrictive and most clinically appropriate intervention” is used, according to a University press release.

Ted Fritz, the vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management, said in the release that the collaboration will help make mental health care more available to those in need.

“We are proud to partner with UCC to assist in delivering mental health care to those in need,” Fritz said. “This new collaboration provides additional resources in responding to and resolving mental health crises, working together to ensure the health and safety of Pitt community members.”

Members of the HEART program will also collaborate with local police departments and community mental health providers, such as UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and resolve Crisis Services, to reduce stigma around accessing mental health services.

The initial phase of the program will only be for on-campus calls and concerns.

Alexander Sipe, a clinician and member of the HEART program, said in the release that the program is meant to help minimize the risks to students in crisis.

“The program is designed to reduce the risk of students in crisis experiencing another traumatizing event, especially for those students who belong to minoritized communities with historically contentious relationships with the police,” Sipe said.

According to the University, if you believe someone is experiencing a crisis or is in distress, stay with the person and immediately call Pitt police at 412-624-2121 or 911. If you are not with them, keep the conversation going until you can connect them with help.