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Agency: Mobile crisis service underused

051419 Mental Health Matters

Natasha Holley a clinical director and co-owner of Integrated Family Services, discusses crisis intervention teams with more than 58 community leaders and officials at the K.E. White Center, Tuesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Representatives of Integrated Family Services told an audience that included area law enforcement officers, educators and social workers Tuesday that their agencies should take more advantage of the mobile crisis services IFS offers.

Keith Ham, community liaison for Integrated Family Services, said during a “Mental Health Matters” session at the K.E. White Center that although school calls for mobile crisis services are increasing, schools could take advantage of mobile crisis more than they do. Other public service agencies in Camden, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties could as well, he said.

“What we really could see an increase in is law enforcement calls and (calls from) department of social services,” Ham said.

Ham said that by county, 33 calls for mobile crisis services were reported in Camden, 91 percent of which resulted in someone not having to stay at a behavioral health hospital. In Pasquotank, there were 218 calls, with 90 percent of them resulting in a diverted hospital stay. In Perquimans, there were 65 calls, with 85 percent resulting in a diverted hospital stay.

The higher number of calls in Perquimans than in Camden points to the potential for increased use of the mobile crisis service in Camden, according to Ham. Mobile crisis teams can go into schools, businesses or homes, and have even responded to people in parking lots, Ham said.

Mobile crisis is a short-term intervention that seeks to provide crisis stabilization and intervention services.

“We also want to help prevent future crisis situations,” Ham said.

It’s a benefit to the individual if they don’t have to go to the hospital, he noted.

According to Integrated Family Service officials, goals of mobile crisis management include keeping in the community individuals who experience a crisis; making rural care more mobile; reducing unnecessary hospitalizations; giving law enforcement officers a referral option for citizens with problems that don’t involve crime; keeping out of jail persons who don’t need incarceration.

Ham pointed out that mobile crisis services are available to people of all ages regardless of insurance coverage. If a person has insurance, the insurer will be billed by Integrated Family Services. However, those lacking insurance won’t be billed.

“No one is ever going to be charged for mobile crisis coming to see them,” Ham said. “The reason that the state is willing to pay us when people aren’t insured is that using mobile crisis saves the taxpayers of North Carolina millions of dollars a year by diverting people form unnecessary hospitalizations.”

Natasha Holley, clinical director for Integrated Family Services, also discussed crisis intervention teams. She said a CIT consists of law enforcement officers who have been trained to recognize mental health conditions and respond appropriately. She asked CIT-trained officers in the room to raise their hands and at least a dozen hands went up.

Holley encouraged sheriffs and chiefs of police in the area to send more officers to receive the training.

Crisis respite homes for children, a new program being developed, is expected to be in place by the end of the year. The seven crisis respite homes in the area will take direct referrals from DSS offices, Trillium and mobile crisis.

Ham also noted a new Crisis Chat program that allows people to communicate directly with a qualified mental health professional online. Crisis Chat is available at no charge by clicking on a link at www.integratedfamilyservices.net.

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