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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State wellness outreach program, HOPE services, over a decade in the making

Kristy Mace
HOPE Services displays the #WeSupportU suspenders t-shirt along with some handouts inside their office. The Health Outreach Prevention and Education (HOPE) Services are located inside the Student Wellness Center at the Steve Clark YMCA.

Over a decade ago, Jessica Provines, the assistant vice president for wellness at Wichita State, kicked off the mission to create a department specialized in mental health wellness and substance prevention on campus.

In July, that vision finally became realized with the introduction of Health, Outreach, Prevention and Education (HOPE) services at Wichita State.

“We really wanted to emulate a lot of other universities across the country who have dedicated departments for prevention on campus,” Provines said. “Treatment intervention services are wonderful, and we need to continue to invest in those, but we also need to go beyond treatment. We need to go to community intervention.”

HOPE services have four key areas of focus: promoting wellness, preventing suicide, preventing sexual violence and preventing substance misuse. Marci Young, the director of HOPE services, explained that these issues were chosen because they’re all connected.

“If we have people who are in a lot of pain, you see increases in substance use,” Young said. “If we have people who have been the victims of sexual violence, we see higher rates of suicidal ideation. Well-being and wellness is about more than a lack of struggling with a mental illness. It’s about being safe. And when you are struggling with mental illness, having the resources that you know you can get through that.”

Some of HOPE’s programs were previously coordinated by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which is focused on treatment, therapy and crisis resources. Provines said that HOPE branched from CAPS to allow staff members to more clearly focus on public health as a full-time job.

“HOPE allows us to not only raise awareness for treatment services but to help increase peer support and connection across our campus,” Provines said. “Where we live in a society, where we feel more supported and cared for, hopefully reducing the need for crisis services and mental health treatment because we’re taking care of our mental health in a proactive way.”

CAPS, HOPE and Student Health Services are all located in the Student Wellness Center at the Steve Clark YMCA. Young said the three services will now be able to spend more time specializing in their section of the overall mission.

“We are three separate departments, but we are all working for the similar goal, which is to create a safe and inviting and inclusive environment on campus,” Young said.

Provines recounted that when she went to Wichita State in the late ‘90s, she had no idea the campus had a counseling center at all.

“You can imagine my surprise,” Provines said. “I would have used the services so many times in my experience as an undergraduate, and I can’t believe I didn’t know they were here. And I was a psychology major.”

This experience informed Provines’ goal to expand mental health services to students. She recalled that HOPE first got off the ground 10 years ago when the Student Government Association helped fund a prevention specialist position that spent half their time on community outreach. With the help of more SGA and grant funding in recent years, HOPE finally had enough staff and funds to be launched.

“It’s wonderful to see the cultural change that is happening on campus and in our community, where we are ready to start prioritizing funding for mental health,” Provines said. “It’s about time.”

Provines said that HOPE wants a million-dollar operating budget and is searching for corporate sponsors to grow the program.

“We are looking at multiple funding options so we can continue to provide excellent services to students on campus,” Provines said. “Growing our peer support and prevention ambassador programs, as well as increasing the community outreach that we’re doing.”

Much of HOPE’s focus so far this year has been hiring more staff and expanding existing programs for students. According to Provines and Young, they have already trained about 7,000 people in mental wellness and suicide prevention and brought on Cora Olson as the first full-time HOPE staff member focused on outreach.

A longer-term goal is to establish an Institute for Hope program on campus, which would create a “hope hangout” location where students could receive peer support. Expanding the Suspenders4Hope program, a mental health campaign that is central to HOPE’s mission, is also a priority for the department. Provines said that HOPE is working to expand Suspenders4Hope to other states.

“We would want to be the national headquarters for the Suspenders4Hope campaign,” Provines said. “Taking this impactful program to communities across the country, especially in underserved communities … Think about the pink ribbon or the red dress. We really feel like Suspenders4Hope can do that for mental health.”

Provines said CAPS and HOPE will continue to work to shift toward a culture of mental health acceptance on campus.

“If you see someone who’s on the outskirts, include them,” Provines said. “If you’re feeling a way that you don’t want to feel, share that with others. Ask for help. There is no shame in that. It is really our desire to just let all students know that they are loved and that there is a place where they belong and that is here at Wichita State.”

For more information on HOPE services, including the numerous trainings they offer, visit wichita.edu/services/prevention.

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About the Contributors
Jacob Unruh
Jacob Unruh, Assistant Sports Editor
Jacob Unruh is the assistant sports editor for The Sunflower. He is a junior at Wichita State, majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. This is Unruh's first year on staff. He goes by he/him pronouns.
Kristy Mace
Kristy Mace, Photo Editor
Kristy Mace is the photo editor for The Sunflower. She's majoring in psychology. Currently a junior, Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She also plays for Wichita State's bowling team and does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.

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