A variety of efforts are under way in the Northland to provide mental health help when it’s needed, experts say.
Among them: A pilot program has begun to connect emergency rooms in rural hospitals with a mental-health crisis response team at the Human Development Center via a video link, said Dave Lee, Carlton County public health and human services director and director of a six-county effort to address mental-health issues that also includes the three tribes of Northeastern Minnesota.
Equipment already has been set up at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, with future links planned in Grand Marais, Two Harbors and Moose Lake.
The idea is to get mental-health emergency care to those who may have come in after a suicide attempt, or with anxiety or depression issues, Lee said. The Txt4Life network set up in the region, in which kids in crisis situations can send a text message for help, is getting significant use, Lee said. In November, 472 kids used the service, including some from outside the region. When kids had to call for help using an 800 number, only 20 to 30 calls per month would come in statewide, he said.
“Kids see it as a way of connecting when they’re suicidal or they’re moving into a crisis situation and they don’t know where to turn,” Lee said. Another pilot program is being developed that will link mental-health professionals at the Human Development Center with schools, Lee said. The student will see the counselor on a 37-inch monitor. “HDC is working with us on trying to get an appointment in one to two hours, and that kid won’t have to leave the school to see a therapist,” he said.
The first link will be set up with Carlton School in January. Work is under way to emulate a crisis stabilization program based in Mankato, Minn., that has been effective in south-central Minnesota, Lee said. The 10-bed short-term facility for those 18 and older admits patients around the clock, with admission decisions made in 15 minutes. The process toward establishing a similar facility in Northeastern Minnesota has begun, with requests for proposals expected to be released early next year and a crisis center up and running by the end of the year, he said. It will replace Bridge House, the residential mental health facility for adults in Duluth that closed in June. Northwood Children’s Services launched a mental-health treatment program within Piedmont Elementary School in the 2011-12 school year, said Richard Wolleat, the mental-health provider’s CEO. Sixteen kids with mental-health diagnoses are in the program, attending three hours of sessions a day with three Northwood staff members assigned. The staffers also are available if the kids develop problems in the classroom.
A similar program was added this fall at Lincoln Park Middle School, Wolleat said, with the possibility of one or two more being added in future years.
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