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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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SDSU students on campus (Photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic) SDSU students on campus (Photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic)

The Right Help at the Right Time

The CARES Team was established at SDSU to proactively support students by addressing their needs and connecting them to resources that can help.
By SDSU News Team

“When we say we care about our students’ whole health, we mean it.”

With nationwide reports indicating heightened levels of COVID-19 pandemic-related stress and anxiety, the San Diego State University community responded with increased support and assistance for students, faculty and staff. 

One such response was the creation of the Campus Assistance, Response, Engagement and Support (CARES) Team. This multidisciplinary group of professional staff members work with the campus community to directly support students who are experiencing difficulties to provide direct support and to connect them with campus or community resources. Members of the campus community, faculty, staff, students and parents can refer a student to the CARES Team. 

“When we say we care about our students’ whole health, we mean it,” said Chris Turntine, director of the CARES Team and deputy ombudsman. Turntine, who has long served as a career counselor at SDSU, was appointed to his new role at the start of 2021. 

RELATED: SDSU Expands Resources to Support Student Mental Health

“We know that students do not always know where to go for help and that there is a need for faculty and staff to have a place to refer students who they identify are in need of support,” Turntine said. “Our goal is to be proactive as possible, and to help our students manage the distress and resolve their issues so that they can maintain their overall well-being and continue to thrive academically.” 

The CARES Team includes representatives from Counseling and Psychological Services, Financial Aid and Scholarships, the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities, the Student Ability Success Center, Housing and Residential Education, the Economic Crisis Response Team, the Office of Advising and Evaluations, Well-being and Health Promotion and the San Diego State University Police Department and works with other departments as appropriate to address the student’s needs. 

While the CARES Team will be a permanent offering for our students in the years to come, the team’s work is part of a larger effort to enhance direct support and assistance as members of the university community have been and continue to experience varying challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new initiative builds on services like our virtual academic supportemergency financial assistance for students and other support services. We are continuing to also increase our staff to directly support mental health services for students. We are continuing to hire additional Counseling & Psychological Services team members to expand student support. 

Turntine, who has been with SDSU in different professional capacities for 20 years and also serves as president of the Black Faculty Staff Association, spoke to SDSU NewsCenter about the CARES Team and student support the university continues to provide. 

Why was CARES initiated and what support is offered to students? 

The mission of the CARES Team is to educate and support the university community around issues of well-being and university resources and referral options. We are working to sustain an environment in which members of our community look out for one another, express care, and will be proactive in addressing individual or community concerns.

What happens when a student reaches out for support? 

After a referral is received regarding a student, we will contact the student and invite them to meet with a CARES case manager. During the meeting, the student and case manager collaborate to determine what resources, referrals or services might best meet the student's needs and goals. Each situation is different and requires an individualized approach. Case managers typically meet with a student several times in person and check-in with a student periodically throughout the academic year. 

During the initial meeting case managers typically assess student well-being in terms of emotional, social, economic, familial, or medical challenges affecting day-to-day living; provide consultation and education; then connect students with helpful academic, social and emotional support and resource providers. 

Why is this type and level of support needed and how do you encourage that students connect when they need help?

We ask students to always feel comfortable to reach out for support by emailing our team at, and no matter what challenges they are experiencing. Asking for help is a powerful act. The purpose of the CARES Team is to provide a centralized structure for the campus community to report concerns and access resources. The existence of the team is a proactive approach to manage the complexities of comprehensive support services. The team provides assistance to students in distress through consultation with concerned faculty, staff, and students; consistent communication between departments; and referral to resources both on and off-campus. 

How does the CARES Team offer support to faculty and staff as they are working with students? 

We encourage all faculty and staff to reach out to the CARES Team as they need help supporting a student, whether a student may be experiencing an academic, personal, emotional, financial or other challenge. Faculty and staff can email the CARES Team with questions at The CARES Team maintains a specific referral form available to anyone in the campus community to refer students of concern, and for student self-referral. After the form is received, a CARES Team case manager conducts an initial assessment. In many cases, the outcome is to offer support and resources to either the individual who reports the concern, the student of concern or both. In most cases, the student of concern will be contacted and invited to meet with a CARES Team case manager. During the meeting, the student and case manager collaborate to determine what resources, referrals or services might best meet the student's needs and goals. Each situation is different and requires an individualized approach.

Why are you personally invested in student support and student care?

I have always been interested in building positive relationships between students and educators, from my role as a peer mentor my junior year to my current role. As educators at SDSU, we can improve the success and well-being of our students by helping to ensure their access to essential resources and support services. I know every student at SDSU has a goal of completing their degree and I want to support them in achieving that goal by removing barriers to their success whenever possible. Regardless of my role on campus, student advocacy has been at the forefront, ensuring all our students have the help and resources they need to reach their goals.