Local help is a call away during mental health crises

Most of the time, most people are mentally healthy, but anyone can fall into poor mental health at any time. There are local options available that focus on getting people the help they need quickly. Two mental health crisis teams - one for child...

Connie Fields
Connie Fields

Most of the time, most people are mentally healthy, but anyone can fall into poor mental health at any time.

There are local options available that focus on getting people the help they need quickly.
Two mental health crisis teams – one for children, one for adults – are a phone call away for anyone.
The crisis teams assess a person’s needs and coordinate an action plan for mental health care, potentially avoiding unnecessary hospital stays, jail time or missed days of work or school.
It’s an underutilized option and team coordinators want the community to know the crisis teams are available to help.


The Region 4 South Adult Mental Health crisis team serves people in Douglas, Traverse, Pope, Stevens and Grant counties.
The team offers short-term, face-to-face services designed to restore a person’s functioning level to pre-crisis level.
“We go out and assess people who are having either emotional or psychological difficulties – whether it’s something like anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation – we can be accessed through the community or through the emergency room for the adults,” said Sarah Richter, crisis program manager, Region 4 South Adult Mental Health Consortium.
On average, the team sees 20 to 30 adults per month across all five counties.

Most of the calls to the adult crisis team originate from an emergency room (ER) visit.
“A lot of the times when someone goes into the ER they don’t know what to expect. They’re looking for help. Just going to the ER might bring stigma, fear, anxiety and they’re afraid of what might happen – are they going to be forced into going to the hospital? The crisis team can go in, do an assessment and in some cases we can avoid hospitalization and hook people up with services,” Richter said.
“It’s usually our goal to avoid hospitalization; it’s not a completely effective way to address their needs. If they’ve got a psychiatrist already that they’ve built that relationship with, that psychiatrist knows them better than somebody at the hospital would.
“If someone is struggling with their mental health and they don’t know what to do and are afraid to go into the ER or they have questions, they can give us a call. We can connect people with resources,” she said.



The Region 4 South Children’s Mental Health crisis team serves children younger than age 18 in Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Big Stone counties.
Similar to the adult crisis team, if a crisis referral is deemed appropriate, the response team will travel to the child’s location to provide face-to-face intervention and assist the child in crisis. A parent or guardian must accept the service and be physically present with the child.
The children’s crisis team cannot provide service if a child is admitted to a medical facility; the service is designed to attempt to meet children in the community setting before their situation warrants a trip to the emergency room.
The team could be called in when a child is:
• Expressing thoughts of self-harm or harm to others.
• Experiencing acute distress that results in a significant decline in functioning.

• Escalating potentially out-of-control behavior.
• Exhibiting emotional, psychological or behavioral difficulties so disruptive that they result in significant disturbance in family functioning accompanied by destructive or aggressive behavior.
It could be triggered by anything – a bad day at school, relationship ending or beginning, bullying, arguing with parents.
“Those situations that probably all parents face but then it gets to the point that you need help,” said Liberty Sleiter, project coordinator, Region 4 South Children’s Mental Health Crisis Team.
An on-site assessment can take two to five hours depending on the situation and time of day, she said. From there, a short-term care plan is created and referrals are made and families are put in touch with mental health professionals in the community.
The goal, Sleiter said, is to keep children in their home and avoid additional stressors.
“Especially for the child and adolescent population, they’re ending up in the ER or [detention center] when we could have accessed the crisis team and/or earlier mental health services,” said Connie Fields, clinical care coordinator, Douglas County Public Health.
In 2013, 94 percent of the children served by the team remained in the home setting, Sleiter said.
Big Stone County serves people up to age 21 because the county does not offer an adult crisis team.

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