BASIC NEEDS STORY
BUILD THE BRIDGE: BASIC NEEDS
HEALTHCARE, HOUSING, & FOOD
Mobile Crisis Intervention Services, provided by United Way’s partner agency Wellmore Behavioral Health, is an example of how the Basic Needs strategy ensures everyone has access to effective healthcare options, especially in moments that can seem overwhelming.
“When a child is out of control, the experience has a different meaning for a parent than for that child,” Vice President of Child Services, Kristin Pracitto, LCSW,
said. “We understand it’s scary to have your child act up or act out, but we want parents to know that Mobile Crisis Intervention Services will meet you where you are, physically and emotionally, and open the door to a huge range of services that support both you and your child.”
The service is free and voluntary, created by the state of Connecticut with the mission to support families in their home and community settings, and reached by dialing 211. United Way 2-1-1 provides 24/7 information and referral services to health, human, and social service organizations. It is free, confidential, and multi-lingual.
“The program results in a response within 45 minutes, similar to dialing 911,” Brittni Lourenco, LPC, team leader for mobile crisis at Wellmore, explained. “But, when you dial 211 for Mobile Crisis Intervention Services, the people who arrive to where the situation is happening—home, school, or even the parking lot of a coffee shop—are from the agency best able to handle the situation. Wellmore responds when that situation involves someone 18 years old or younger.”
The situation might be a child acting disruptively, experiencing an issue with mental illness or substance abuse, expressing suicidal or homicidal ideas, or feeling sad or overwhelmed.
Brittni said, “We’re always going to come out to support you with a full diagnostic evaluation and safety/risk assessment if you call. We don’t define problems as too big or small for our attention. If you feel there is a crisis, then it is a crisis. The goal is to provide support to everyone within the setting where we’re seeing them. We want to stabilize the child enough to keep that person in school or home, making referrals and recommendations to maintain that stabilization.”
A safety plan is constructed with the child, parents, school staff, and perhaps others such as therapists already involved. The Mobile Crisis program was developed in response to higher than expected usage in emergency rooms across the state.
Kristin suggested, “Imagine a scenario without Mobile Crisis, where, for example, a student feels that flunking one exam means no college acceptance and therefore a dismal future. Maybe the parents take those feelings seriously and call an ambulance. That ride is kind of scary and an emergency room can be further overwhelming as the student talks to a series of professionals who are trained to work quickly to assess and treat medical issues. Through Mobile Crisis, we have the luxury of slowing down, engaging the child and family in an environment like home or school where things can feel more normal as we develop a plan that is safer and more developmentally appropriate. Mobile Crisis is an amazing resource and irreplaceable gift to our community.”
“We don’t just do an assessment because that alone won’t fix the problem,” Brittni said. “By creating a plan together, we make sure everyone knows what to do next and is reassured that we will follow up until the family no longer needs us. We don’t just serve a family in the moment unless a family doesn’t want that follow up.”
Kristin said, “We can take advantage of the family’s existing resources, learning what relationships and community connections they already have, perhaps a coach or teacher or relative, to construct a plan that makes sense for this family. A plan for another family may look entirely different because this is a targeted approach. This is not someone telling the child or family what to do but, to show them they have the capacity to successfully implement the plan because of their own strengths.”
“Because the program is voluntary, with parents required to agree to the assessment, they are open to input and trust our recommendations and judgement.” Brittni said.
Kristin commented, “For me, that’s the value that United Way provides, ensuring that families have access to health and mental health care, regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status. Negotiating your way through insurance coverage can be complicated. How do you figure out who to talk to when you’re in the middle of a crisis? While Wellmore helps children and adolescents, adults can find the same mobile crisis service from other agencies, just by dialing 211. No one in Connecticut should experience a mental health crisis and be without help.”
United Way’s partner agency Wellmore Behavioral Health provides Mobile Crisis Intervention Services, one of the ways we enact our strategy to ensure everyone has access to effective healthcare options,especially in moments that can seem overwhelming.
Brittni compared 211 to other resources, “You can search the Internet but that can result in too much information. Being able to talk to someone via 211, and get targeted information in your own region, makes that information manageable, even sometimes placing help within walking distance. This can be essential for a family that depends on bus service for transportation but can’t take that bus cause the crisis is happening
late at night.”
Acknowledging the stressors that families are facing today, Kristin said, “It’s okay to ask for help. We know that parents have a wide variety of experiences in how they were parented. They may not have the resources their children need on that day, due to their own history or skillsets, or simply not be what the child needs in that moment. They might be next week, but they need the service immediately.”
Wellmore has responded to all families, from new immigrant families who have just arrived to families with significant resources, who were concerned about what the neighbors might think about police car lights flashing in the driveway. Kristin pointed out, “We arrive without sirens or labels on the car, meeting you where you are physically and emotionally. We’d rather come out for any situation than not be there and a catastrophe happen. The service exists and is free.”
“It takes remarkable dedication to do this work,” Kristin concluded. “It’s not a job. As our clinicians partner with families, we can make things better for kids, together.”
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