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Forming Small Communities of Practice: NABITA Mentor Match Spotlight: Dion Fawcett

NABITA’s Mentor Match program is available to all NABITA Members at no cost. The program aims to cultivate leadership in the field by linking seasoned BIT professionals with those who are newer to the field. We had the pleasure of interviewing Dion Fawcett, Senior Case Manager, High Risk and Community Safety, at the University of Toronto. He graciously shared his insights on the program and highlighted why members should consider it.

What inspired you to participate in NABITA’s Mentor Match program as a mentor? 

My background is primarily in higher education, complemented by a decade of experience as a crisis counselor in victim services and advocacy. This experience naturally led me to behavioral intervention and threat assessment. Learning from seasoned professionals in these areas inspired me to become a mentor myself. I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors and wanted to pay it forward. 

In NABITA’s Mentor Match program, I currently mentor three individuals with varying experience levels. One is new to their role, one is in a remote location with limited resources, and another is in a large metropolis with solid support from the post-secondary community. Next month, I will host a virtual meeting with all three mentees, marking their first opportunity to connect. 

With a background as a case manager, I enjoy meeting my mentees where they are and seamlessly integrating tools and resources. Our conversations are not overwhelming; they are focused on providing practical, tangible advice that my mentees can easily implement. 

Today, behavioral intervention and threat assessment roles have evolved into distinct specialties. Higher education students bring increasingly complex challenges to our campuses, making the need for effective case management more critical than ever. The Mentor Match program is an excellent opportunity to apply our collective knowledge to support each other, form small communities of practice, and problem-solve these challenges from a broader perspective.  

What has been your experience with NABITA? 

I’ve been a NABITA member since 2015—nearly a decade. Over the years, the scope of needs in the behavioral intervention and threat assessment field has evolved, and I’ve witnessed NABITA’s growth in addressing these changes. 

Unlike a typical office environment, higher education operates within large common spaces and must uphold the freedom of speech. NABITA’s tools help us navigate these nuances effectively, guiding us through the complexities that aren’t always black and white. They enable us to delve into the gray areas where we often work. 

NABITA’s resources, particularly SIVRA-35, Standards for Behavioral Intervention Teams, Standards for Case Management, and various toolkits, have been instrumental in my work. They offer practical and effective solutions to the complexities we face in our roles. As we navigate the post-COVID landscape, I foresee NABITA’s Violence Risk Assessment of the Written Word (VRAWW) tool becoming increasingly essential in identifying and addressing concerns in written forms. These resources are not theoretical guidelines but practical tools that can be immediately applied in our work, making them invaluable. 

What networking opportunities have you gained from being a mentor? 

Being a mentor is not just about giving back; it’s about being open to personal growth and learning. As the saying goes, mentors learn as much (if not more) from mentees as they learn from us. Through this process, I continue to gain valuable insights into systems and resources and how to maximize these elements. It’s a mutually beneficial experience that I highly encourage everyone to do. 

What advice do you have for mentees, and why would you encourage them to join? 

Utilize the NABITA listserv! There are thousands of practitioners eager to help. Be bold enough to share your challenges and ask for suggestions. Additionally, reach out to nearby post-secondary institutions to form a small community of practice and exchange ideas. 

Mentoring is a long-term relationship—I still connect with my own mentors. Building relationships with students is just as important as networking with other professionals. I often hear concerns about justifying NABITA memberships due to tight budgets. However, with free benefits like the Mentor Match program, NABITA’s scholarship program, and virtual Talking BITs sessions, you can help build a case for future investment in membership and funding. 

What experiences or skills are most important for mentors and mentees in this program? 

Higher education must recognize its limitations; we are not hospitals or community agencies. Our students stay with us for anywhere from half a year to over four years, yet our resources remain limited. Therefore, forming strong institutional-community partnerships is crucial. 

At the University of Toronto, we understand the importance of community partnerships in higher education. We collaborate with hospitals to ensure the continuity of care for the mental health of our students. With Canada facing a housing crisis, our institutions can’t solve the issue alone. Partnering with community agencies that provide housing assistance, rent-geared-to-income options, and shelter services is not just beneficial; it’s essential. By opening lines of communication and understanding available community resources, we can better navigate and support our students’ needs. The practitioner’s role in fostering these partnerships is crucial. 

In Canada, the majority of our cases revolve around mental health and basic needs. Financial and food insecurities play a substantial role, often intertwining with mental health issues. It’s not just about addressing mental health challenges anymore; these challenges are frequently exacerbated or triggered by insecurities related to basic needs. Unlike the U.S., we encounter fewer incidents involving weapons or guns, which I believe is a cultural difference. Nevertheless, it is crucial to keep that perspective in mind during our risk and threat assessments. 

A significant part of my role involves building community and coordinating care. When a student works with me, it doesn’t mean they also cease to be someone else’s student. Adopting a coordinated approach to support the student is essential. Our staff pools our resources—for instance, I might have gift cards while a colleague has fruits and vegetables in their office to support a student with food insecurity. This collaborative effort ensures we maximize our resources, enhancing the support we provide. A student is not isolated; they are part of our collective responsibility. Therefore, we must work together in a coordinated manner to truly support their academic journey.

What impact do you think the Mentor Match program will have on the growth and advancement of the behavioral intervention and threat assessment field? 

While textbooks provide foundational knowledge, we learn best through conversations and collaboration with others who understand our work. The Mentor Match program at NABITA offers a specialized space where we can connect and support each other, enhancing our collective growth and understanding. Having more mentors and mentees participate in this program can contribute significantly to advancing the behavioral intervention and threat assessment field. 

At NABITA, we know our members make great mentors. Please consider applying as a mentor or mentee during our next application cycle. Applications will open in September 2024. Learn about Mentor Match by visiting