When someone is calling Mobile Crisis Response (MCR) at Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, it seldom brings good news. Usually, a child is experiencing an acute psychiatric crisis, perhaps fueled by trauma. Callers, often parents or family members, want support and guidance from an expert, perhaps even an intervention.
Sometimes, the caller fears that a child may be about to commit suicide. Sometimes, the caller is a child.
Fortunately, the people responding– licensed, trained professionals on staff at Family & Children Services – know what to do and respond quickly.
“We have people on call 24-7-365,” said Susan Davis, program manager for Family & Children Services MCR program. “Our team is highly trained to respond to any call and if they need to travel to a hospital, school, home or other venue, we aim for a 45-minute response time. That’s important, because we cover all of Kalamazoo County.”
MCR serves youth up to age 18 and pairs well with the agency’s Youth Crisis Residential and Respite Services program that serves children and adolescents ages five through 17.
Another form of crisis intervention for the community – Critical Incident Stress Management, or CISM – is new to Family & Children services and serves children and adults.
Together, these crisis interventions represent an expansion of services – both geographic and in scope – at Family & Children Services. And more expansion may be on the horizon.
“We say ‘In every crisis there is an opportunity,’” said Davis. “An opportunity to help a child, a family, a community. Perhaps even save a life. Our goal is to be prepared for any and all crises. We then hope we never have to respond. But we’re ready when needed.”
MCR is a comprehensive, community-based program offering immediate response – around the clock and around the calendar – for Kalamazoo County youths facing a mental health and/or substance use crisis.
MCR clinical professionals are trained to conduct clinical assessments that address the issues they confront, develop crisis safety plans to address the risks and behaviors associated with those issues, and coordinate short-term crisis placements for youth, if needed. The MCR team has up-to-date access to community resources and both deep knowledge and wide experience in critical youth issues.
Family & Children Services established its MCR program in 2000, making it one of the oldest in Michigan. The program operates through a contract with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which, according to Davis, also makes it stand out, because most counties operate their own crisis programs.
“Now that Michigan requires each county to have such a program, we’ve been consulting with other counties in our area on implementation. I recently presented to a state-wide conference on the topic,” said Davis.
According to Davis, the most frequent reason people call the hotline (269-373-6000 or toll free 888-373-6200) is to ask for support and guidance for a child heading toward or in the midst of a mental health crisis. The second most frequent reason for a call is to report a child expressing suicide ideation – talking about hurting themselves or perhaps posting thoughts of suicide on social media.
In 2016, Davis said the Family & Children Services program received 717 calls from families and children, about the same as 2015.
“So far, this year, the numbers are trending up,” she said.
Davis would like people to know that cost should never be a factor in deciding to call for help. “We do not charge for Mobile Crisis Response. Medicaid, and most private insurance carriers will reimburse for such interventions, but we’ll never ask for any payment,” she said.
“I wish more people knew to call the hotline, instead of taking their children to the emergency room or worse, doing nothing,” Davis said. “We can help. Family members and children should call us.”
Glen’s House and Gail’s House are two sturdy, brick, six-bedroom houses located behind the Family & Children Services site in Kalamazoo. They are named for Kalamazoo-area philanthropists and long-time Family & Children Services supporters Gail and Glen Smith, who provided funding for the homes.
Both houses were built to provide temporary respite services for kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities and serious mental health issues. “That ended several years ago, due to changes in state license requirements,” said Susan Davis. “Each house has been repurposed and relicensed to care for children in crisis situations that need either short-term respite care or residential care.”
According to Davis, both residential and respite care at the agency serve children and adolescents (ages 5 through 17), who are undergoing a significant psychiatric crisis and need to be separated from their home environment.
“Crisis Residential kids are in crisis, but they don’t necessarily need in-patient treatment at a large psychiatric institution,” she explained. “With us, they receive assessment and treatment by licensed mental health professionals as well as psychiatric and nursing services in order to stabilize their ongoing mental health condition before they go home.”
“Crisis Respite kids are in more of a preventative mode, so they don’t get to that next step. They are experiencing an acute psychiatric crisis and need to be separated from their primary caregivers in order to de-escalate a situation, receive treatment and have time for some additional supports to be put in place at home.”
Each youth or child can stay for up to 14 nights in a comfortable, private room. Balanced, nutritional meals are provided in a family-like setting designed to support their recovery.
Glen’s House placements are accepted 24-7-365 and come to the agency through contracts with community mental health programs in Kalamazoo and ten other Michigan counties. Davis would like to contract with even more.
“We opened this program in February 2016,” said Davis. “By year end, we’d served 222 youth. “We know there is a great need for this service. That’s the bad news: Kids are in crisis. The good news is that Family & Children Services is ready to help them.”
The newest crisis intervention offered by Family & Children Services -- Critical Incident Stress Management, or CISM – aims to help groups of adults and children in Kalamazoo County who’ve experienced a traumatic critical incident.
Examples of such incidents include armed robberies, mass shootings, fires, accidents and natural disasters such as tornados. Survivors of these incidents, including first-responders such as police, fire and hospital personnel, often need support following such an event to process their reactions, learn to identify stress symptoms that follow and even avoid post-traumatic stress syndrome.
“It’s a specific intervention model that requires specific training. I’m glad to say that our ten-person CISM team at Family & Children Services has recently received training and is registered with the State of Michigan to provide this intervention.”
Team members include Mobile Crisis Response therapists, Family and Community Treatment (FACT) therapists, case managers and program managers.
The Family & Children Services team is part of a countywide CISM initiative and all requests go through Gryphon Place, the crisis intervention and conflict resolution agency in Kalamazoo that also has trained CISM staff and volunteers available.
“CISM is coming to the forefront in many communities nationwide,” said Davis. “We are pleased to be part of another crisis intervention resource in our county.”
“With our Mobile Crisis Response program, our Youth Crisis Residential & Respite programs, and now CISM, Family & Children Services is becoming known for the strong crisis interventions it offers in Kalamazoo County and we’re expanding into surrounding counties.”
For more information about crisis interventions offered by Family & Children Services, visit www.fcsource.org/crisis-intervention.html#ycr.