Community mental health meets Northern Michiganders where they’re at with mobile crisis intervention

Help is just a phone call away.This article is part of MI Mental Health, a new series highlighting the opportunities Michigan children, youth and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan and its members from the Community Mental Health (CMH) Agency.

Every mental health crisis is different. So, it makes sense that services provided to those experiencing a mental health crisis accommodate their unique individual needs. While many associate a mental crisis with suicide, self-harm, or thoughts of hurting others, the range of overwhelming situations can include catastrophic life events such as the death of a loved one, disruptions to daily life such as the loss of a job, and intense personal distress or depression led by unexpected events such as a global pandemic. Essentially, a crisis is self-defined by the individual and can vary greatly from person to person, day to day.

Those Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (NLCMHA) recognizes his region’s need for crisis care—and that some situations warrant immediate attention outside the confines of a mental health facility. For those who simply need someone to talk to in times of crisis, NLCMHA offers a 24/7 toll-free line, 833-295-0616, which is available toll-free. In addition, its mobile crisis intervention services reach across a six-county area: Crawford, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Missaukee, Roscommon and Wexford counties.

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“One fantastic part about the NLCMHA being a six county organization is that crisis workers across the six counties are able to support each other to provide 24/7 coverage even in the face of illness like we experienced in the pandemic, ” says. Stacey Kaminski, NLCMHA Crisis Services Operations Manager.

NLCMHA crisis therapist Amanda Clements shares tips for using the tablet for the mobile crisis team with CO Dale Suiter and Cpl. Katie Tessner.In addition, NLCMHA has distributed tablets to local law enforcement officers who send the mobile crisis team to situations that call for mental health intervention by police or county sheriff’s departments.

The NLCMHA Mobile Crisis Intervention Team—including master’s and bachelor’s level clinicians—commands a fleet of vehicles that allows them to respond to crisis situations off-site as quickly as possible. They go to homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, prisons, and other community settings where individuals are experiencing mental health crises.

Stacey Kaminski, NLCMHA Crisis Services Operations ManagerNLCMHA has provided mobile crisis services for adults and children since 2016. In the last year, December 1, 2021 to November 30, 2022, they assisted 5,742 people – 4,959 adults and 782 children – with mobile crisis services throughout the geographic region. By comparison, its mobile crisis team served 4,681 in 2020-2021, 3,288 in 2019-2020, 3,572 in 2018-2019, and 3,451 in 2017-2018 – an ever-increasing tick in these much-needed services.

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“The ultimate goal is to help those in crisis and work together with them,” says Kaminski.

After the initial interaction, the crisis team helps provide follow-up resources such as the location of food pantries or shelters as well as helping individuals schedule appointments for services such as substance use disorder treatment, counseling or primary care physician care.

FAST help for children and young people

NLCMHA’s FAST program helps families with children.Mental health challenges know no age limit. The number of children and youth experiencing emotional distress across the country is growing at an alarming rate. According to one US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study, between 2016 and 2020, the number of children aged 3 to 17 diagnosed with anxiety increased by 29% and those with depression by 27%. A Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that in 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34 and among the top nine leading causes of death for people aged 10-64 in the United States

To deal with this increase in youth mental crisis, NLCMHA introduced its Family Assessment and Safety Team, FAST, in 2017. These teams are specially equipped to care for families with children up to 20 years of age. They do home interventions that help children. and families resolve issues and de-escalate situations in a more familiar environment. When a mobile crisis team is dispatched to deal with a child or family situation, a Peer support person travel with the licensed clinicians to help in any way possible.

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“Peers are individuals with lived experience who can share those experiences and work with individuals, side by side, to advocate, encourage and promote recovery,” says Kaminski.

FAST’s enhanced mobile crisis services include initial stabilization of the situation, development of a recovery plan, and follow-up care for up to 90 days. This allows for solution-focused, short-term care until individuals are connected to a provider for continued care.

“The immediate crisis may be over, but it’s just a small part of the journey in mental health,” says Kaminski. “Moving toward recovery and feeling good looks different for everyone. Our teams at NLCMHA are there to help the individual get to that place one step at a time.

Dianna Stampfler has been writing professionally since high school and is the president of Promote Michigan.

Photos courtesy Northern Lakes CMH Authority


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