The External Vice President for Local Affairs hosted a health and safety town hall at the Isla Vista Community Center, covering student mental health and addiction on May 7 at 7 p.m. 

The External Vice President for Local Affairs hosted a health and safety town hall at the Isla Vista Community Center. Lizzy Rager / Daily Nexus

With around 30 attendees, the event was the third town hall this year by the External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA), following several health and safety workshops throughout the year and the distribution of Narcan supplies before and during Deltopia — I.V.’s annual unsanctioned street festival.  

Representatives from Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC), UC Santa Barbara Counseling & Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.), Gauchos for Recovery (GFR) and Life of the Party (LOTP) spoke about their programs and took questions from the audience. 

The Nexus was unable to verify some of the last names of the speakers at the event. 

Turi Honegger, a 15-year psychologist for C.A.P.S., kicked off the town hall. C.A.P.S., the primary mental health service at UCSB, offers in-person and telephone individual and group counseling services with licensed psychologists, alongside drop-in mental health peer counseling among other functions. Honegger was accompanied by his dog, Buddha.

“This is what a psychologist looks like on campus. Although we are not all white. We’re not all male. We’re not all bald. We’re kind of all different colors. And there’s about 35 of us in varying stages of training, but I’m what an old one looks like it’s been licensed for,” Honegger said. “And I’m glad that this is a topic that I can’t believe how many folks have kind of gathered here on your average Tuesday evening,” Honegger said. 

Honegger emphasized that C.A.P.S. is free if you’re a registered student — paid for by registration fees — and that the program is “not necessarily a long-term care service.” Any student can walk in during its hours and get a 20-30 minute initial evaluation the same day, and the healthcare provider can draw out a mental health plan, he said.

“Traditional therapy is more like weekly ongoing for a year or two. But we’re for all students and we try and serve as many as possible,” Honegger said. 

If students are worried about the well-being of a friend, they can go to the C.A.P.S. office or its website and fill out a service request form. A C.A.P.S. worker will then call to recommend services.

“What we’ve noticed in the last 20 years is a huge increase in anxiety. And this really went up and up over the pandemic. The pandemic had people a little bit more isolated as you all well know or might have experienced,” Honegger said. “But what we’ve noticed even longer for the pandemic is that anxiety was on the rise. Depression was on the rise, and most fearful of all is that suicide was on the rise.”

An audience member asked Honegger about the nature of group therapy services. He said there are around 24 different groups based on voluntary forms, some grouped by culture or other identities, some focused on psychotherapy, and some traditional “process-related” groups, where you sit in a group and talk.

“The benefits for any one individual going is that not only do you get help and support, but you get to give help and support which is a really powerful experience to be able to help someone else with their issues,” Honegger said.

GFR peer recovery intern Grace Carpenter emphasized the program’s resources, including peer intern office hours – where anyone can talk and share their story — harm reduction tools like fentanyl test strips and Narcan, weekly meetings and its recovery support residence, which is currently at the Santa Ynez student apartments. GFR is part of the alcohol and drug program and seeks to create a “safe and supportive environment for students at all stages of recovery.”

“There’s a lot of different ways you can do this. And recovery’s hard. Most people don’t get it on the first try because it’s very difficult to do,” Carpenter said.

A substance use disorder diagnosis qualifies individuals for therapy through the ADP. 

“17% of the population over the age of 12 meets the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder, about one in six. So by my account, there are about six people in this room that probably have a substance use disorder,” Carpenter said.

The signs for someone who might have a substance use disorder include drinking more than you intend, being unable to self-moderate, talking about drinking or using constantly and continued drinking or using despite personal consequences.

When asked about how to act when approaching an academically successful friend who is thought to have a substance use disorder, she said many people who have substance use disorders do not want to admit it and the conversation “can be challenging.” She suggested having an open dialogue with continuous conversation and recommending resources like GFR.

“The one thing I’ve learned about substance use disorders is they don’t like being told what to do. They know themselves better than everything else. And it’s just one of those things that has to happen on its own a lot,” Carpenter said. 

Emily, a nurse for the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, spoke about their monthly STI testing service in partnership with EVPLA  and STI education. 

She said the most common STIs are herpes, HIV, hepatitis B and HPV. The office recommends reducing sexual partners and testing for STIs with new partners.

“A lot of infections don’t have any symptoms. And so that makes it a lot easier to go around spreading it, having unprotected and casual sex. This can lead to long-term damage. It’s much more common in females unfortunately to have long-term damage from untreated STIs,” Emily said.

Emily said through the state of California, you can enroll through Family PACT to get private insurance for birth control so that no one else can find out, like a parent. For its monthly I.V. screenings, the clinic has a mobile van with two exam rooms.

“There is nothing wrong with you if you get an STI. It’s just another type of infection. It’s the same thing we like to treat you like all different types of infection. We wouldn’t judge you if you came in with strep throat. We don’t judge you if you come in with an STI,” Emily said.

LOTP representatives shared educational information on partying. LOTP is also in ADP, but it is education-based and tries to “make sure everyone’s informed about what they’re doing and that they’re doing it safely” while partying, LOTP representative Jay said. 

Jay said warning signs of someone who might have a substance use disorder are denial and avoidance, difficulty studying, changes in attitude, high tolerance, inability to predict the extent and length of use and other observable negative consequences, like difficulty holding onto a job.

“If you’ve noticed any of these warning signs and the people around you hear about it, please just have that conversation. At least try and document this and a lot of times people who do get help eventually, it’s because they’ve had that conversation over and over with different people around them and eventually, it hit a critical mass that they decided that some changes need to be done,” Jay said.

LOTP hosts alternative weekly events for those who want to avoid the parties, and regularly tables on campus promoting safety campaigns.

Ryan said the signs someone is experiencing an overdose are not waking up, slow breathing, weak pulse, vomiting and passing out. He emphasized that it’s important to move the individual overdosing so they won’t choke on their vomit and to administer Narcan. 

“A lot of times accidental overdoses happen because people are using something that wouldn’t activate overdose and they didn’t expect it,” Ryan said. “It’s so important to know what you’re taking. Especially because a lot of times these drugs are in supply chains that are essentially untraceable.”

The town hall concluded at 8:20 p.m. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the May 16, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com