BY TOMAS FLORES
EPCC's mental health programs offered for students.
An EPCC study showed 67% of students would seek help for a mental health issue and 53.7%
reported missing class at some point in their academic career due to a mental health issue. Carrie Van Houdt, assistant professor of psychology, helped put together the results of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 student surveys.
Van Houdt is also the faculty advisor for the student organization Bringing Awareness to Mental Health, or BAMH Club, a peer support group. BAMH allows students struggling with mental health issues to have a forum to address their concerns. They can also learn coping strategies from guest speakers, advisors and peers. The club also participates in joint resource fairs, which promote campus programs and introduce community partners who provide mental health information. These fairs rotate around EPCC’s five campuses throughout the year and are the idea of the faculty’s Mental Health Committee, chaired by Professor Tony Procell.
Another resource is mental health first-aid training. The course covers the recognition of the
signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge, with early intervention as key. The eight-hour training, originally for faculty, is now open to all EPCC students. There are several opportunities to participate in this class each semester. Anyone wishing to get involved can contact Carrie Van Houdt for information on the first-aid training or for the BAMH club at Cmelia@epcc.edu.
EPCC’s newest initiative to care for student’s mental health has been in the planning for some
time and will soon be available for students to take advantage of. The college’s new Social
Services and Mental Health Center will offer individual, couple, family and group therapy
session. All sessions will be free of charge and can last up to eight visits. Two locations will
officially open up to the student population at the Valle Verde and Northwest Campuses first.
The plan is for all campuses to have centers staffed once licensed professional counselors or
social workers are on board. The goal is to have one of each on every campus.
Valerie Mireles, a licensed master social worker, is the clinical service provider for the first two
locations while the interviewing process continues. Her office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for in-person and virtual sessions. The scheduled split between the two campuses is still
undetermined. This center is the next step a student can consider after initially contacting their student counselor.
“We all have a background in counseling, and part of that is crisis counseling.” Raul M. Arizpe,
a student counselor, said.
According to Arizpe, the first three mental health sessions can be conducted at the counseling center. Escalation to the Care Center or a community provider can also occur immediately, he said. For those who are looking for more information, they can see a student advisor or contact Valerie Mireles at Vmirele2@epcc.edu.
For long-term care there is EPCC’s Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), serving students with more permanent disabilities. Carmen Castillo-Attar, a licensed professional counselor, volunteered to head the department. She also oversees the EPCC Cares Center.
“We have to be very knowledgeable of ADA Laws,” Castillo-Attar said. “In college, you have to
self-identify as a person with a disability... It is up to the student to request the services.“
Once an individual requests services, an intake interview takes place and assistance is tailored to their needs. Services may include one-to-one tutoring, provided subject note takers, testing assistance and sign language interpreting. The department’s Project Higher, which began in 2015, assists individuals with more developmental and intellectual challenges to receive a level- one certificate.
Intensive support services include a personal coach to provide guidance, encouragement, study strategies and management skills. Certification programs include welding, auto tech, business management, advertising graphics and design, pharmacy tech, dental assisting and a dozen others. The program’s retention rate is 94.75% with an average GPA of 3.43. To date, 58 students have participated. The program is a joint effort between Texas Workforce Solutions, UTEP, Volar Center for Independent Living and other community partners. For any one who wants more information on Project Higher, they can contact Alejandra Mendoza at