With the assistance of over $2 million in public health-related grants, Alvin Lindsey plays a crucial role in assessing and protecting the physical, emotional, and mental health of Fort Valley State University and the surrounding communities.
“I have the best job in the world because it allows me to do what I love, which is help people,” said Lindsey, director of outreach in the FVSU Office of Student Counseling and Outreach Services. “We provide primary, secondary, and tertiary care to students who are, in most cases, experiencing some manageable life crisis or health issues.”
While FVSU has partnered with Macon Occupational Medicine for students’ on-campus physical health needs, the institution provides critical mental health services to students and spearheads public health efforts for the Middle Georgia community, including prevention efforts related to HIV/AIDS prevention, substance abuse, suicide, and sexual violence. Lindsey believes FVSU is well equipped to provide strong leadership which produces a lasting positive impact on the health of students and community residents.
“We deal with all those things that may prevent someone from having a complete state of well being,” Lindsey said. “We help them so they can do things like get a job, get back in school, or even deal with legal issues. We kind of created a continuum of care where we are able to lead clients through a network in which they can receive help.”
Many of the most effective prevention programs involve the engagement of students as peer mentors and peer educators, Lindsey said.
The institution has also recently created a new committee called the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force, which is being co-chaired by Lindsey and Dr. Tamara Payne, ’94, ’96, an FVSU associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences who is also a licensed therapist and certified counselor. A key focus of the new task force is assessing all facets of the institution’s operations and policies to ensure everyone— especially students—are fully protected, Lindsey said.
“The president has charged us with creating a culture of resiliency for faculty, staff, and students and looking at our programming, policies, and procedures as well as the organizational culture of our institution,” Lindsey said. “We’re looking at challenging behaviors and challenging practices and making sure we have the programming in place so that we are not episodic in our responses to issues and that we are strategically aligning our efforts. It is bigger than just one department. It is the role of athletics, the role of housing, student affairs, greek life— all have to show a commitment to say ‘not here’ on our campus.’”
The office’s key outreach initiatives include the Teaching Everyone about the Risks Community Coalition (TEARs2C Plus), which focuses on 18-24-year-old minorities, college students, and residents of Peach County and Bibb County, has resulted in HIV testing for over 400 students and residents and has increased awareness for more than 4,000 persons.
The Protective Resources for Inclusion, Dignity & Equity (PRIDE Navigator) Program, the recipient of a $1,000,000, five-year award from the Department of Health and Human Services/SAMHSA Division, is a five-year program directed at 13-24-year-olds and minority males, inclusive of the MSM community. The effort has resulted in the establishment of Just Open Yourself (J.O.Y.), FVSU’s first gay-straight alliance, and engagement with local high schools, area Boys and Girls Clubs, health centers, and transitional homes through an established FVSU off-site site in Bibb County.
The office’s Shepherds in the Valley program helps male students, especially athletes and fraternity members, build awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and violence. It has helped more than 300 males better understand the continuum of sexual violence, including victim-blaming, consent, and objectification of women and other minority populations. The Mary Magdalene Initiative helps women build awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and violence and supports the emergence of solidarity among women. More than 200 women have celebrated the contributions of women, sisterhood, and bystander intervention through the program.
Other programs address the reluctance to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and suicide prevention. Still more initiatives include Be the Sober One, which has used a $24,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to educate over 2,000 students and Peach County residents about the risks of driving while impaired and seat belt utilization, and Vault in the Valley, a food and clothing bank for students in need of business and leisure attire, non-perishable foods, and sanitary products.