University of Central Missouri: UCM Adopts Care to Act Multilevel Approach to Engaging Community in Violence Prevention

Building upon a culture that encourages individuals to make a positive difference in the lives of others, the University of Central Missouri this fall is introducing the Care To Act initiative.

Care To Act is a new multilevel approach that, in part, is designed to accomplish violence prevention objectives that were previously reached through the nationwide Green Dot program that was offered at UCM and at other colleges and universities. Since its adoption at UCM in 2015, this bystander intervention program, supported by a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, has featured educational programming designed to promote a community that is respectful and dedicated to preparing individuals who understand their roles in preventing violence.

While Green Dot has benefited UCM, Suzy Latare, manager of the Office of Health Promotion under the umbrella of Campus Communjty Health, noted that early in 2021 organizations such as Missouri Partners in Prevention (PIP), which is contracted to administer this initiative, and the Missouri Coalition to Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV) studied data on how students view violence and abuse prevention and whether or not a change in programming would be beneficial. With research demonstrating the interconnectedness of issues that impact students and contribute to violence, a new program was born. Called “Engage” at the state level, UCM is adopting this initiative under its own original moniker, “Care To Act.” This name grew out of discussions and recommendations by a coalition of campus members.

“We got very strong feedback from our coalition, so we asked permission to come up with a name that was going to be unique to UCM that would really say what we want people to know this program is about,” Latare said. She added that one of the criticisms of Green Dot was that its name did not clearly define the program and its purpose. This was in addition to issues such as the time required for trainers to gain certification.

“One of the things we’re most excited about regarding this new strategy is that it is multilevel. It is violence prevention, because that is what grant funds are for, but the strategy looks at violence in many different ways.”

The scope of Care To Act also exceeds that of Green Dot. Latare noted that the program covers four focus areas in which campus community members can learn how to make a positive difference toward building a culture of caring at UCM through facilitated, in-person group conversations that emphasize engagement. These key focus areas are: interpersonal violence, substance misuse, bias and discrimination, and mental health/suicidality.

“The data shows that all of these issues are very much interconnected and intertwined,” Latare said.

She pointed out, for example, while individuals may experience substance abuse issues leading to the misuse of alcohol, cannabis or tobacco, they may also experience mental health concerns. It is not uncommon for these same individuals to struggle with anxiety or depression, childhood trauma, and other issues that cause them to self-medicate, according to Latare.

“We’re excited because this strategy is going to be about approaching all of these from a place of interconnectedness with the overall goal being to help each one of us to create a culture of care on campus. We want to help students feel connected and get them connected to resources that can support them,” she said.

Latare noted that the Care To Act strategy features a variety of opportunities for learning through three primary approaches. This includes online training that will be rolled out sometime in August that all students will be encouraged to take to learn more about the program.

The new strategy also includes in–person conversations with engaged campus community members to help students learn how to support someone who may have been harmed or is at risk of being harmed. It also enables participants to learn about different resources on campus and offices that are helping to promote a culture of caring.

Additionally, the Care To Act initiative will purposefully connect with other campus programs and services that support and promote a community of care, to provide synergy and support for those areas of campus doing related work.

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