Northern Lakes will host a meeting of community partners to answer questions regarding crisis services on June 29, 2016 from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Traverse City Office at 105 Hall Street and broadcast to the Northern Lakes’ offices in Cadillac at 527 Cobb Street and in Grayling at 204 Meadows Drive. Please contact Deb Lavender at 231-935-3677 if you plan to attend and identify which office.

Northern Lakes CMH Creates Dedicated Crisis Team

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health (NLCMH) announced creation of a single Crisis Services Team with presence at each of its four offices and staff providing after-hours Crisis Services to adults, children and families.

In addition, a new master’s level liaison position will be included on the Crisis Services Team. This person will focus on assisting individuals with a smooth transition to their home environment after leaving an inpatient hospital or jail setting.

Karl V. Kovacs, Northern Lakes Chief Executive Officer, said, “We have restructured clinical responsibilities so that there is a larger, agency-wide emphasis on crisis service delivery. During normal business hours, NLCMH clinical staff will each provide crisis services to the people they regularly serve. Additionally, we have created a single, dedicated Crisis Services Team whose responsibilities will include emergency, crisis residential, and jail services for our communities. By restructuring how crises are handled for persons regularly served and for community members who do not receive services from Northern Lakes, we are able to remove responsibility for crisis services during office hours from our outpatient therapists.  This will allow the outpatient therapists to better focus on consistent use of evidence-based group psychotherapy and short-term individual therapy. We will also create capacity to directly provide mobile crisis intervention services and services for children in crisis, for which we previously contracted.”

Kovacs said, “This initiative was part of a comprehensive organizational review which has been ongoing the last two years to improve our consistency, effectiveness, efficiency, and use of data. Through this process we discovered opportunities to improve the quality of service delivery, develop new services, improve staff morale, reevaluate long-standing styles of practices, and bring about a more cohesive, consistent and efficient level of service agency-wide.”

As part of the review, NLCMH examined and endorsed use of the practice guidelines on responding to mental health crises published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

This approach broadens the definition of mental health crises beyond the legalistic mental health code – which only focuses on the risk of harm to self or others – to include a wider look at the crisis event with a more nuanced understanding and perspective beyond whether an individual is dangerous or immediate psychiatric hospitalization is needed.

According to Curtis Cummins, M.D., NLCMH Medical Director, “Our guidelines and expectations are based around the philosophy that a mental health crisis is self-defined and no one is denied access to crisis services. Homelessness, police contact, institutionalization and other adverse events are themselves crises – and may also contribute to further crises. Because only a portion of real-life crises may actually result in serious harm to self or others, a response that is activated only when physical safety becomes an issue is often too little, too late, or no help at all in addressing the root of the crisis.”

Cummins added, “Our response includes how the person and/or family can access services and supports available in the community to help avoid future crises. Addressing the underlying factors allows the crisis services to be forward thinking and improve real life outcomes.”

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority is contracted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide and contract services for adults with mental illness, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and children with serious emotional disturbance, as defined by the Michigan Mental Health Code, in six counties. As Northern Health Care Management, the organization coordinates the Home and Community Based Services for the Elderly and Disabled MI Choice Waiver Program in ten counties. Northern Lakes CMH also provides Mental Health First Aid and other educational trainings for the community.