What does your campus need to think about in terms of effectively servicing students needing mental health and addiction supports?  


When working with students with complex mental health needs it is important to connect them to appropriate services both on campus and off-campus to support their learning and wellness, and help students reach their full potential.

To facilitate this need for more coordinated care for students with complex needs, campuses can develop alliances between different on-campus services and departments, as well as community-based agencies. In particular, developing off campus relationships can facilitate referrals to specialized services in mental health, addiction and other areas of expertise that may not be available on campus.

These tools were designed to help your campus enhance its ability to support students with complex mental health needs by thinking how services on-campus, off-campus and in the community can better coordinate care through partnership and collaboration.

Going through this process will help in deciding:

  • Why should we collaborate – is it the way to go?
  • What type of relationship is best to meet our needs?
  • What key elements do we need to keep in mind in partnering with others?
  • What steps need to be taken to form a collaborative partnership?
  • Have we checked all the boxes to ensure a successful collaboration?

Start to explore partnership tools and resources now!

Why Work Jointly With Community Mental Health & Addiction Services?  

The needs of students struggling with mental health and addiction issues on campus have significantly increased in the past decade.  On-campus mental health care resources are often stretched to the limit.  It only makes sense to utilize resources both on and off campus.  Getting to know community resources and joining collaboratively with them in addressing the mental health and addiction needs of students can make the path and journey run smoother for everyone.  The environment is changing as can be seen by the following trends which just strengthens the case for collaboration.

  • Services have dramatically shifted in the past decade from hospital to community
  • Policy development moving into encouragement of and direction toward collaboration/ partnerships/merging of resources.
  • Competition is being replace by cooperation.
  • Complexity of care increasing calling for multiple responses for possible problem solution
  • Quality of Life, especially focusing on wellness factors, are emerging as key issues of concern
  • Fragmentation of services and funding have resulted in organizations expected to find better ways of serving client populations with resources they currently have
  • Traditional funding is shrinking; to attract funding, we need do things better, more efficiently and join together to create innovative approaches
  • Collaborations reduce duplication of cost and effort
  • Beginning to see the emergence of contracting historically public functions to private sources with the result of reducing affordable or no cost service
  • A clearer understanding of youth development and the factors that dramatically increase the likelihood of successful growth to adulthood is evolving…”takes a whole village to educate/raise a child”


(n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2016, from the Chandler Center for Community Leadership


Good collaborative relationships are initially created by routine interactions between organizations both on and off campus.  It is through these interactions that potential partners learn about one another, identify each others expertise and interests and begin to build the essential foundation of trust and respect for one another.  It is also through these experiences organizations begin to identify potential candidates for partnership when the need for collaboration arises.  Good community-campus partnerships are intentional, with a focus on “careful preparation, excellent implementation and meticulous follow through”, as well as evaluation of results.

The following building blocks take you through the necessary steps to build an effective and sustaining collaborative partnership.

Does Your Collaboration Check All the Boxes?

  • Common purpose and clear understanding
  • Agreement on mission, values and goals
  • Variety of stakeholder groups in the planning stages
  • Significant and differing contributions from each partner
  • Share in the risks, liabilities and responsibilities as well rewards and successes
  • Agree on population in need and shared geographic area
  • Autonomy and ethics of each professional are maintained
  • Shared governance structure for coordination decision making
  • Clearly defined roles & responsibilities
  • Clear communication processes
  • Collaborative data and tracking information
  • Open, inclusive, transparent, accessible, and tailored to need
  • Easy to access and navigate services for service users not providers
  • Common definitions, processes, protocols and assessments
  • Resource lists are shared and regularly updated
  • Educational resources are shared amongst the partners
  • Conflict resolution process in place – solution focused, positive
  • Compatible organizational cultures that support collaboration and cooperation
  • Diversity is honored and respected – operates within an anti-oppression, anti-racism framework
  • Clear understanding of the expectations, norms, culture and traditions of the various partners
  • Power differentials are identified, acknowledged and negotiated
  • Meetings are safe and opportunity for all to have a voice
  • Conversations and deliberations amongst partners are reflective, honest, and never rushed
  • Trust has been built on commitments and agreements
  • Partners share successes and failures to create improvement and spread innovation


Everyone brings a set of values, priorities, resources and competencies to a partnership. The challenge of any partnership is to bring these diverse contributions together, and arrive at a common vision, in order to achieve sustainable and meaningful goals.


Potential challenges:

  • Loss of autonomy: the challenge of shared decision-making processes; the need for building consensus with partners before action can be taken and the implications of wider accountability (to other partners and to wider beneficiaries)
  • Conflicts of interest: where a decision or action that is right for the interests of the partnership but may be at odds with the individual organisation’s interests
  • Drain on resources: commitment (often significantly greater than anticipated) of time and energy of key staff in partnership building and project development in addition to any additional financial or other resource contributions
  • Implementation challenges: the day-to-day demands of delivering a partnership program as a collaborative venture, with all the additional management, tracking, reporting and evaluation requirements that entails.
  • Negative reputation impact: when partnerships go wrong causing damage to the reputation or track record of individual partners by association.

Some strategies for overcoming these challenges include:

  • Determine who and how issues or concerns will be brought forward.
  • Clearly document the problem or conflict in a way that gets at the root issues, the sources and history of the conflict and clarifies the assumptions. Consider issues of confidentiality.
  • Determine who will resolve the issues (e.g., Steering Committee, subgroup or neutral person/ agency). Choose someone who is seen as neutral and credible by all those affected.
  • Ask those parties that are affected by the conflict to: reflect on the information; ensure mutual understanding; agree to interpretations; and identify the individual’s interest in the issue. Try to frame the issues and concerns in a way that can result in new understandings and solutions.
  • Identify possible solutions that best meet the needs and interests of all those affected. Be prepared to compromise and find consensus. Utilize any elements of the collaboration agreement that helps frame solutions (e.g., value statement; roles and responsibilities).
  • Select and document the best possible solution(s), and develop a plan to implement them that includes actions, responsibilities and timelines.
  • If an acceptable solution cannot be found, move to a more formal process of facilitation, mediation or arbitration by an independent person.
  • Bring closure to the dispute by ensuring that the people with the conflict have let it go, both in their ‘head and heart’.
  • Communicate the results to appropriate stakeholders.


Adapted from the Partnering Initiative and the United Way.