by Lucinda Jesson
Special to the Star News
Crisis services in one Minnesota county recently played a key role in keeping together a mother and her 9-year-old son, who county authorities had earlier separated. Both the mother, “Mary, ” and son, “John,” have mental health disorders. In John it showed up as verbal and physical aggressiveness, while Mary’s mental illness affected her ability to maintain stability in the home.
Responding to an incident in which John was threatening and aggressive, the crisis team responder stabilized the immediate situation and developed a crisis plan with the family. Crisis staff then arranged for therapy services and returned to the family home to provide short-term stabilization therapy for the boy until long-term therapy services could be established. During this period, John became increasingly able to state his feelings of anger toward his mother about having been placed outside his home. He also learned to identify and use outlets for his anger, such as taking a ride on his bicycle when he was upset. John was able to avoid swearing and aggressiveness. With greater self-control, he transitioned successfully to a therapist while remaining at home and at school.
One of the areas in which we have made great strides is in the development of the kind of 24/7 crisis services that helped John and Mary.
Law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms do not need to be the first places to turn when people or their family and friends are in despair. In Minnesota we have other options. We have built a system of mental health crisis response services that are available to any Minnesotan in need. Staff trained in crisis response provide 24-hour call services for most Minnesota counties and tribal reservations.
Crisis responders assess the crisis, assist the person immediately in coping and stabilizing the situation, and then follow up to assure that the person receives the support they need. The goal is to make sure everyone who can is able to stay in their home. At times, however, a person needs services in a different setting. In this case, the crisis team member assists in arranging for the appropriate care.
Mobile crisis services not only allow more people experiencing mental health episodes to be stabilized at home or close to home, they also prevent some of the tragic incidents we read about involving youth and adults experiencing major anxiety or depression. If you, a friend or family member need these services, a list of crisis lines is provided on the DHS website at www.dhs.state.mn.us/crisis-lines.
Together we can have more success stories like John and Mary, and fewer mental health crises playing out in law enforcement and emergency rooms. (Editor’s note: Jesson is commissioner, Minnesota Department of Human Services.)