Campus Assistance, Response, Evaluation, and Support (CARES) Team

cares team sdsu logoMission

The mission of CARES at SDSU is to address concerns about students experiencing or causing distress that interferes with learning, development, and success, and ensure that they are connected to appropriate resources. CARES serves as a collaborative resource for the entire university community who are concerned about students in distress. CARES is responsive to academic concerns, basic needs, medical concerns, mental health concerns, potential threats to self/others, impact of disruptive behavior on the community, and targets of violence/harm. CARES fosters a culture of information sharing among concerned parties, serving as a hub of information regarding concerns, and cultivating a community of care in which faculty, staff, and students are aware of resources and appropriate interventions available.

Role On Campus

The CARES (Campus Assistance, Response, Evaluation and Support) Team is a multidisciplinary group of professional staff members that come together to provide support and resources to students. The CARES Team reviews, assesses and responds to student issues that may present barriers to their personal and academic success, such as food and housing insecurity, emotional distress, health concerns, or other personal challenges. The CARES Team also responds to referrals involving individuals that may be exhibiting concerning behaviors that may be disruptive, erratic, or threatening. The role of the CARES Team is to provide a supportive resource for students, address student concerns, and maintain a safe campus environment.

The purpose of the CARES Team is to provide a centralized structure for the campus community to refer concerns. We meet our goal of early intervention for individuals through collaboration and effective communication with campus departments, students, faculty, and staff. Support is provided to SDSU undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Review information received from faculty, staff, students, and/or community members; conduct follow-up to determine an appropriate response.
  • Intervene early. Provide support and response to students displaying varying levels of disruptive, disturbed, or distressed behaviors.
  • Serve as a central resource and information gathering source.
  • Coordinate follow-up. Ensure that services, support, and resources are deployed effectively and allowing for a wide range of possible outcomes
  • Utilize a formalized protocol of instructions for communication, coordination, and intervention.
  • Coordinate University follow-up and on-going support for students experiencing challenges, providing a plan of action to support each student’s well-being and success
  • Provide training, resources, and support to SDSU community members to better identify distressed students and address behaviors of concern
  • Foster a culture of reporting and caring so that students of concern are identified and provided the appropriate supports and referrals
  • Improve coordination and communication regarding behavioral issues across campus
  • Centralize reporting and referral systems to better identify, assess, manage, track and support SDSU students whose behavior causes serious concern
  • Balancing the needs, interests, safety, and well-being of each student with the needs, interests, safety, and well-being of the community, helping individual students and the broader community achieve stability
  • Helping students evaluate their holistic experience and identify their needs and support resources

Please click HERE to report non-emergency concerning student behavior.

Who Should Be Referred & When?

Students, faculty, staff, and any member of the university community who interacts with students are in active positions to observe students whose behaviors may demonstrate distress affecting their overall well-being. Students should be referred if they show signs of potential threat of harm to self or others, or if they show signs of academic distress, emotional distress, or financial or housing insecurity. Students should be referred as soon as these signs are recognized. When you submit a student report to the CARES Team, you are informing the CARES Team that you have seen/heard something from or about a student that causes you to be significantly concerned about the student's health, well-being, safety, and/or academic success.

Who Can Make a Referral?

Any member of the University community may contact the CARES Chair or any CARES Team member to express a concern. Any member of the committee already aware of a situation causing concern may request the Chair to convene the committee. The Chair will bring all reported concerns before the committee.

How to refer a student to the CARES Team:

Faculty, staff or students concerned about the behavior of a student may report the behavior via an online confidential form that will be sent to the CARES Team. Submitting a referral simply means you have a concern about a student's well-being. The report requires a detailed account of why the person is concerned with specific examples of concerning behavior. Additionally, information is requested about whether the reporter has attempted to engage the student before reporting the concern. We strongly encourage you to let a student know when you have submitted a report as informing the student helps with the transition of support. The person submitting the form will receive confirmation from the CARES Team acknowledging receipt of the report and seek additional information if needed. Receipt of this form initiates the CARES outreach process.

*If this is an emergency then you should dial 911.


While we provide privacy, we cannot guarantee confidentiality. Case managers are mandated reporters, therefore any information provided that poses threat or harm to self and/or others must be reported to the appropriate persons, including the University Police Department. Otherwise, case managers only share information on a need-to-know basis.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permits communication about a student in distress under the following circumstances:

SDSU faculty and staff may disclose personally identifiable information from a student's educational record to appropriate individuals in connection with a health and safety emergency. Information may be released to police, parents, staff or others if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or other individuals. Information may be released to university personnel when there is a specific educational need to know and should be limited to the essentials of university business.

Observations of a student's conduct or statements made by a student are not considered "educational records," nor are they FERPA-protected. Such information should be shared with appropriate consideration for student privacy.

Note: Health records created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional acting or assisting in that capacity, are subject to HIPAA Privacy Rule's restrictions on use and disclosure and cannot be released to a third party without written consent from the student.

Case Management

The CARES Team utilizes Case Management services. Case Management services are designed to support students throughout their college career in order to best achieve their academic goals. Case Management does not solve student’s problems, but rather helps the student identify issues and appropriate resources, then works collaboratively with the student to develop an action plan.

The CARES Team is available to consult with staff, faculty, and students to determine helpful resources or course of action.

Case management services offered include but are not limited to:

  • Assistance with navigating campus and community resources
  • Referrals to community providers
  • Exploration of and referral for behavioral health concerns
  • Referrals for students struggling with food or housing insecurity
  • Health and safety referrals
  • Problem and conflict resolution

Steps, Practices, and Response:

  • The information you provide is sent electronically via a secure site to a member of the CARES team for review.
  • A team member will conduct an initial assessment of the information provided to determine if immediate outreach is needed. In such cases, a team member will normally reach out to the student or to the reporting person for additional information during normal business hours and within 24 hours. Other cases may be discussed at a CARES Team meeting to determine appropriate next steps.
  • If the team determines that a coordinated response is appropriate, they will develop a plan and assign an individual or a case manager to lead its implementation.
  • The student referred will be assigned a Case Manager, who will contact the student and schedule an initial meeting with the student.
  • The Case Manager will discuss possible solutions with the student to determine what is the best course of action. Evaluation of action will be done on a student-by-student basis and may be ongoing.
  • A coordinated action strategy for students may include:
    • Follow up with the appropriate person(s) to gather more information to assess the student’s need.
    • Respond to the student’s need offering resources, referrals, and/or interventions, as appropriate.
    • Voluntary withdrawal from classes
    • Evaluate the student’s progress and determine if the student needs on-going support.
    • The Case Manager, where appropriate, will update the person submitting the report and provide guidance on the plan of action to support the student. It is important to remember that in many situations the CARES Team will not be able to provide detailed follow-up information to the reporting person. Information is shared on a need-to-know basis.

What is a CARES case manager?

The CARES case manager is a non-clinical higher education professional that focuses on the goals of health and safety for the entire campus community. The case manager does not provide therapeutic interventions but does focus on educating and encouraging effective problem solving to assist students in navigating processes, accessing services and implementing self-advocacy skills.

Role of the case manager:

Maintain contact and meet with students to address needs; conduct follow-up communication and meetings Arrange for appropriate support and resources Monitor compliance with treatment plans and/or university behavioral expectations Evaluate threat and assess safety to self and/or the community for appropriate referrals Foster self-advocacy in students to manage their academic, personal and fiscal responsibilities Advocate for students individually and systemically The case manager is limited in scope. Like you, we cannot ensure that students use the recommended resources or seek help when it is offered; we are able to make referrals and encourage action. We are very aware of the gap in resources to meet some students’ needs and in these instances we can assist students to access available community services.

Keep in mind:

A student’s relationship with these offices is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and, as such, we are limited regarding what we can discuss regarding any student-specific information without the student’s expressed consent. The time for resolution is often undefined as each student’s situation is unique and may require ongoing follow up.

The CARES Team provides a centralized place for various campus departments to come together and communicate relevant information, coordinate institutional response, and consult about students of concern. Students are referred to the Campus Assistance, Response, Engagement and Support (CARES) unit when they are exhibiting concerning behaviors related to their personal, physical, and emotional well-being; select cases are then brought to the CARES Team when appropriate.

CARES Team Members

Athletics Department
Campus Assistance, Response, Engagement and Support (Chair)*
Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities*
Counseling and Psychological Services*
Economic Crisis Response Team*
International Student Center
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Graduate Division
Residential Education Office*
SDSU Police Department*
Student Ability Success Center*
Student Health Services
Student Life and Leadership*

*Permanent Members

The CARES Team also consults with other advisors, faculty, and staff as necessary.

Be aware of the following indicators of distress. Look for groupings, frequency, duration, and severity — not just isolated symptoms.

Academic Indicators

  • Sudden decline in quality of work and grades
  • Repeated absences
  • Disorganized performance
  • Multiple requests for extensions
  • Overly demanding of faculty’s or staff’s time and attention
  • Bizarre content in writings or presentations
  • You find yourself providing more personal than academic support

Physical Indicators

  • Marked changes in physical appearance (e.g., grooming or hygiene deterioration, weight loss/gain)
  • Excessive fatigue or sleep disturbance
  • Intoxication, hangovers, or smelling of alcohol
  • Disoriented or “out of it”
  • Garbled, tangential, disconnected, or slurred speech
  • Behavior is out of context or bizarre
  • Delusions and paranoia

Psychological Indicators

  • Self-disclosure of personal distress (e.g., family or financial problems, grief, suicidal thoughts)
  • Unusual/disproportionate emotional response to events
  • Excessive tearfulness or panic reactions
  • Irritability or unusual apathy
  • Verbal abuse (e.g., taunting, badgering, intimidation)
  • Concern from peers

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Physical violence (e.g., shoving, grabbing, assault, use of weapons)
  • Implying or making direct threat to harm self or others
  • Academic assignments dominated by themes of extreme hopelessness, rage, worthlessness, isolation, despair, acting out, suicidal ideations/violent behaviors
  • Stalking or harassing
  • Communicating threats via email, correspondence, texting, or phone calls

Frequent Examples of Referable Concerning Behaviors

  • Unusual or erratic behavior in class, in the residence halls, during advising sessions, etc.
  • Extended absence from class or activities by a typically engaged student
  • Written work or creative expression with troubling themes or references
  • Verbal or written threats made by a student toward another students, faculty, and/or staff
  • Written or verbal expressions of suicidal ideation or intent
  • Other actions that cause an alarm or call into question the safety of the student or his/her peers

CARES Syllabus Statement

In order to create a culture of care in your classroom, consider using this or a similar statement so that students understand the importance of well-being while striving for academic excellence.


If you or someone you know needs support, is distressed, or exhibits concerning behavior, help by making a referral to the CARES Team. The San Diego State University CARES Team is committed to improving the safety and well-being of the college community through proactive and supportive interventions. As your instructor, I may contact the CARES Team to seek support for you. I encourage you to fill out a referral if you or a classmate are in need of help. You may contact the CARES Team by filling out a referral at In case of an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

Responding to Indicators of Distress

While interacting with students across the university, faculty and staff may be confronted with situations in which a student is displaying concerning behavior. Behaviors may manifest verbally, physically, or in writing (such as in an email, drawing, or via social media).

The CARES Team assists students who are experiencing distress or are at-risk of experiencing distress. If you are made aware of a student challenge that leaves you feeling concerned, worried, and/or alarmed, you are encouraged to make a referral to SDSU’s CARES Team.


The CARES Team may provide suggestions to a referring party about how to also assist the student directly. Together, we are a community of care to support SDSU students’ successes.

Additional information for faculty and staff seeking to support students who may be experiencing distress can also be found on SDSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services website at:

The CARES Team is not tasked with responding to emergencies. If this is an emergency and you are in need of immediate assistance contact SDSU Police 619-594-1991 or dial 911.

Your referral to the CARES Team can help connect an individual who is struggling with appropriate support and help that person avoid a more significant crisis.

Click here to identify potential indicators of distress among students.