In response to an anonymous post on a student-run social media page, University of Wisconsin’s Health Services will explore alternative options to police hospital transportation.
In a statement released Friday, UHS announced they will be looking at alternatives to police hospital transportation after a student’s experience with the current transportation process through UWPD came to light.
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UHS said the conversations surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and police presence in communities of Black, Indigenous and people of color brought the issues to their attention. Additionally, a post made by an anonymous UW student on the student-run Instagram page BIPOCatwisco shared a specific emotionally harmful experience of police contact through campus’s mental health services, according to the statement.
“Our existing system has included campus police in our processes for transporting students to the hospital, if needed,” the UHS statement said. “We recognize that when a student is transported to the hospital, this is in response to profound distress and that this distress can be compounded by the presence of police.”
UHS said when students are brought to the hospital, the inclusion of police in their transportation and crisis response can jeopardize how safe students feel.
While UHS said they have tried to train campus police responders to support all students, they recognized in their statement that “no amount of training” can change the lasting impact police presence has on marginalized students due to both the historical and systemic aspects of policing.
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“At [Mental Health Services], we remain committed to supporting our members of marginalized communities and consider this a priority for our organization,” the statement said. “We are responsible for continued attention and energy toward systems change in the pursuit of social justice and equity.”
Djamal Lylecyrus, UW rising sophomore and founder of the BIPOCatwisco Instagram page, said in a statement to The Badger Herald that the change will be “exponentially impactful.”
Lylecyrus said this announcement is a step forward for the BIPOC community on campus in the fight to make UW more welcoming to BIPOC students and staff.
“This news was incredibly heartwarming to myself as well as countless others, and I think that it really shows that our institution is starting to listen to their students and make actionable change,” Lylecyrus said. “I do believe that this is only the first step of many, but it is certainly a good foot for the university to start on.”
The Instagram account BIPOCatwisco hopes to share the experiences of BIPOC on campus to increase visibility and allow marginalized students’ voices to be uplifted, according to the account’s Instagram bio. The account currently has over 7,300 followers since it started just a month ago, and it has shared the stories of nearly 100 BIPOC UW students.
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In a statement to The Badger Herald, UHS Director of Communications Marlena Holden said to continue raising awareness and increasing training on MHS, personnel from both UHS and UWPD serve as subject matter experts on various committees and work groups.
UHS Director Sarah Nolan said there are hundreds of people on campus who are there to help students, according to the UHS statement to The Badger Herald. Nolan said UHS believes UWPD has the “best interest and welfare” of all students as a priority, and any changes to the policy will be made in coordination with UWPD.
“Transport for students in active crisis and expressing suicidal ideation is complicated,” Nolan said in a statement to The Badger Herald. “We know that there are concerns about police departments being part of transport during mental health crises and understand an interest in different responses.
UHS said they will remain committed to accountability in pursuing these changes, and will share updates to this policy as it is finalized.
UHS encouraged students to provide feedback through their website so they can better address the needs of students.
“We are grateful to our BIPOC students for sharing their experiences on campus and, specifically, with MHS,” the announcement stated. “We will use this feedback to evaluate our processes, improve our services and advocate for change at UHS and the broader system.”
This article was updated on July 28 at 1:56 p.m. to reflect new information regarding a statement from UHS communications to The Badger Herald.