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Crisis teams play big role locally

Essentia Health St. Mary’s and the Becker County Crisis Team have a plan – and it’s getting national attention.

At the start of the year, Essentia Health put into place a policy, directing staff to call the crisis team whenever needed, day or night. It has had so much success that the two are up for the Jackson Healthcare’s Hospital Charitable Services Award, an honor given to entities working with the communities in which they exist.

Since St. Mary’s doesn’t have inpatient mental services, working with the crisis team seemed to be the perfect fit. And it has been. With a reduction in holds and revisits, Karen Crabtree, manager of community health and social services, said St. Mary’s has saved about $100,000 this year.

“We created a policy that if we have a patient, we call them and they come,” she said of the crisis team. She added that it’s helping “not only patients but the whole community.”

Calls to the crisis team can mean anything from a connection to services for someone who is suicidal to parents who need advice on behavioral issues with children. Becker County Crisis Coordinator Amber Nelson said they get all kinds of calls, but the majority is for suicide.

The crisis team started in 2008 with services for children. It encompasses not only all of Becker County but also all of the White Earth Reservation, including portions that are located in neighboring counties. In 2009, adult services were added under the same grant used to fund the children’s services. Nelson said they are spread thin but are making it work.

With the partnership with Essentia Health, the crisis team is seeing more calls during the day. They can help get callers hooked up to local resources, counseling and more.

“It’s better to keep things local; then we can consistently see them,” Nelson said of those who get appointments set up in Detroit Lakes, or Mahnomen, rather than having to drive to Fargo. Not only can the people make appointments and stay local, it’s also easier for the crisis team to be able to do a follow-up two weeks later to see how things are going.

It’s those services and actions that are being recognized with the national award nomination. There were 208 nominations for the Jackson Healthcare award and the field has been narrowed down. In February during a conference in Georgia, the top winners will be announced. Nelson and Crabtree will be there, hoping to hear their names read off as winners.

The top 10 winners will win a substantial cash prize, and their program plan will be spread throughout the United States as a “best practices” model. There are then five more winners chosen as “programs of promise.” They will also win a cash prize.

“I think we’ve done really great,” Crabtree said of Essentia’s policy and work with the Becker County Crisis Team.

“It gives us the ability to brag about it a little,” Nelson said of their program and its success, especially if award a national honor.

She said locally, the crisis team is also standing out as a success. It’s the only hotline and response team that works 24 hours a day.

“We’re pretty proud we can maintain 24-7 work,” she said.

There are three entities that share the workload – White Earth Mental Health, Stellher Systems and Solutions Behavioral Health – with about 20 people from the three that help. When someone calls the hotline, the professionals on the other end “triage” the call and get all the information they can from the caller.

Then they determine if they should call 911 because it’s an emergency situation or if they can provide phone support or if a face-to-face visit needs to be made.

“We’re getting the calls for sure,” Nelson said, adding that they are increasing.

Tanya Carter, White Earth Mental Health coordinator, said that the crisis team averages 15-20 calls a week, and the team is sent out for about half of those calls. Regardless of the call, the team also does a follow-up.

“We like to see clients face to face when they are calling,” Nelson said.

While Essentia Health is the only entity that has a policy in place to call the crisis team, Nelson said the team works with other entities as well, like the Becker County Jail for instance.

With three entities working on the crisis team and so many brains working toward the same goal, Nelson said it’s a very good place for new ideas. She hoping she’ll be able to bring back some new ideas from the February conference as well.

Not only might the conference be beneficial in the sense of new information, but it will also be beneficial to Essentia Health and the Becker County Crisis Team and the work they are doing.

“It will help define what we are doing back here,” Crabtree said, adding that it will show others what’s going on in Becker County and how it works. They may get some feedback too as to how to make it even better.

Crabtree said that Perham Health is also looking at the model and working with a different crisis team (since it’s in a different county) to implement the same policy, only tweaked to suit their needs.

For anyone in need, call the crisis hotline at 218-850-HELP (4357).

Anyone interested in donating funds for the crisis team to sustain their hotline and program can contact Amber Nelson at Becker County Human Services at 847-5628.

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