The Billings Gazette reported today that the Billings-area Yellowstone Youth Crisis Network has gathered at least 22 private and public organizations to fix the recurring problem of youth with mental health challenges being placed in hospital treatment centers or detention.
Amie Havner, inaugural Coordinator of the new crisis network said, “early intervention is key… [and] will help down the road” to protecting children’s mental and behavioral health. Havner connects families with resources for coping with children’s behavioral and mental health challenges.
Proper resources can reduce the incidence of emergency room visits and in-patient treatments for children, relieving pressures for desperate families. “That means keeping kids in the community at home,” said Jani McCall, a 37 year veteran of mental health and youth services provision in the Billings area – who also helped launch the crisis network.
According to McCall, “Addressing issues early also cuts down on overall health care costs… The average child younger than 18 who has spent time in residential treatment will cycle through six to eight different placements, from hospitals to therapy-focused foster homes.”
Montana state legislature signed off on $1.2 million to continue programs launched within the past two years to divert children from hospitals and detention centers. Grants were provided to various Montana cities, including Billings.
The goal is to soon integrate program services into a “more permanent structure” that ensures children have access to every available resource before entering an emergency room when they are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Apparently, there are fewer services for children under the age of six. While data collection can help schools identify students who are struggling and answer questions such as, “What kind of services are people using? How are they finding them? And Are they keeping up with later appointments?”, school budgets are slim.
Schools are often not financially equipped to provide the additional services that a child might need. Furthermore, it is difficult for families to admit that they have problems and or that a problem is so acute as to require mental health services. Mental health is still shrouded in stigma, especially in rural areas.
The Yellowstone Youth Crisis Network is developing a website designed to allow users to easily access resources with plain descriptions. Additionally, the network sponsors a 24/7 hotline for crisis intervention (call 200-0559).
Colleges are also dealing with growing mental health challenges in the student body. The stigma of mental health is rearing its head again. Apparently, many students who have a diagnosable condition still do not seek the help that they need although they are likely to have negative consequences of their failing and untreated mental health.
Specifically, experts say that “Members of ethnic-minority groups, such as African-Americans, and immigrant populations are even less likely than whites to get care, especially high-quality services.”
Researchers are now trying to bring treatment to students from ethnic-minority backgrounds, who tend to not to seek care for mental-health issues. Surprisingly, even well-educated minorities are still less likely than non-Hispanic Whites to seek treatment.
According to Dr. Alegria, Chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, ethnic minorities wait an average of eight years after noticing mental health care needs before seeking help.
Academic researchers are looking for ways to bring treatment to minority patients rather than waiting for a person to enter to a traditional health care setting. Researchers are capitalizing on advancing technologies, using virtual settings as an alternative to in-person treatment.
The Surgeon General issued a Report on Mental Health in 1999, documenting the under-treatment of ethnic minorities in the mental-health community. Known barriers to care included high costs, lack of treatment availability, and stigma against seeking mental-health care. These barriers are reportedly compounded for some ethnic minorities, who also experience an disproportionate level of mistrust for the health-care system, with some having experienced racism and difficulties with language and communication while seeking care.
A community college professor commented that many students are taking advantage of virtual meetings with advisors and teachers in lieu of traditional face-to-face meetings. She believes that this is the way students will be inclined to the business of education and work in the future.
In fact, cyber counseling is one of the fastest growing methods of patient check-ups since some people live in rural areas where there is no physical office within close driving distance; and because some patients have trouble leaving home to attend a traditional meeting, such as elderly patients who are no longer able to drive.
The term, “duck syndrome” is now being used among college students to refer to the pressure to look calm on the surface, though you are paddling furiously below the waters of a mental health flood. Complications are exacerbated for children of immigrants of Asian heritage, whose culture tends to view asking for help as failure.
The Steve Fund, one of the few groups working to support mental healthcare for college students of color, and a website called 7cups.com, offering online therapy, are collaborating to offer a first step for students of color experiencing emotional or mental-health concerns. Says Annelle Primm, a psychiatrist and Senior Medical Adviser to the Steve Fund, “Interventions focused on specific populations are intended not to stigmatize or separate or segregate,… but to have the capacity to communicate with a diversity of populations.”
The collaborative service is expected to launch next month, according to Steve Fund President, Evan Rose, whose family opened the Steve Fund for his brother who was a Harvard College graduate before he died from suicide in 2014. To date, about 1,500 volunteers have received training as supportive listeners.
Another intervention working to hedge the average eight year treatment delay is funded by the National Institute on Aging. To get services to people sooner rather than later, it is collaborating with community health agencies serving the elderly (a large population of whom are ethnic minorities), to provide evidence-based mental-health interventions for depression and anxiety, sleep and nutrition, in Chinese, Spanish and English. The study, called “Positive Minds, Strong Bodies,” is increasing availability of crucial resources.