The program is spearheaded by the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health & Science University, who recognized the urgent need.
The Child Center applied for a grant in November to bring a Crisis and Transition Services (CATS) program to Lane County. The contract was officially signed early this year by TCC, and they began working with PeaceHealth immediately after.
A grant of $150,000 was given to The Child Center.
Through the CATS program, TCC will respond when youth visit the emergency room for a mental health concern or crisis. They will then help transition the children and their families into ongoing services to support them as time goes on.
Kate Lundquist is the Grants and Communications Officer for The Child Center.
“There’s really no shame in needing mental health assistance and care, especially this past year,” Lundquist said. “A lot of us have been thrust with situations that have created brand new stress and have left a lot of uncertainty. View us the same way you would view going to the doctor because your child maybe has chickenpox or something. It really is an OK and natural thing to need help for children and youth who come to us. We’re really just here to give support and to help everybody feel better.”
She said the money will help largely with staffing at The Child Center.
“We have a dedicated therapist that will be working with the clients that come to us for a minimum amount of time,” Lundquist said. “That's really to make sure that when clients come to us -- they can stay with our services and have some continuity, stability and get stabilized a little bit before we figure out the next step for them.”
PeaceHealth has noticed an increase in youths entering emergency departments at RiverBend and University District hospitals for mental health concerns since the pandemic began -- an average of 38 youths per month.
Traditionally, the hospitals have seen spikes arise during spring or when kids begin to go back to school.
Alicia Beymer is the Chief Administrative Officer at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center, University District.
“We are very excited about this new program,” Beymer said. “It really aligns with our PeaceHealth mission of healing and promoting wellness and healing. This type of program allows for seamless transitions of care for youth presenting to our emergency department. When they're discharged back to the community, it connects them to vital services and our families to vital services and treatment.”
Janet Perez is the PeaceHealth Behavioral Health Services Manager and shared her thoughts.
“We see a lot of youth in our emergency room and more than ever lately,” Perez said. “We have never had an opportunity to have another agency come in and do a warm handoff like his opportunity is affording us. It’s going to be great to have somebody to come in and make that connection to the family and to the child, and then follow them up and transition them to ongoing care.”
She said parents, as well as children, are feeling a lot of stress.
“A lot of these kids and families coming in are just sort of at their wits' end -- not knowing what to do next and of course they're worried about their kids,” Perez said. “The resources are limited in an outpatient setting, so they don't always know where to connect. People know I can come to the emergency room, and I'm going to get some help.”
Here are a few signs to look out for to know if your child may need to be admitted to the emergency room.
“It becomes an emergency if that child is harming themselves, is threatening to harm themselves or if they're unsafe in the home and they need to be evaluated by a clinician," Perez said.
She said the moment you notice a child's behavior change -- reach out for help.
“There's no shame,” Perez said. “It's a way to show courage, strength and that you care for yourself and you care for those you love by reaching out and getting help.”
“We're really happy with The Child Center that they received this grant. We're looking forward to seeing a change in the community,” Beymer said.
You are also encouraged to contact The Child Center's 24/7 Crisis Response Program at 1-888-989-9990 if you know a child in need of assistance.
“We have known for a while that our Crisis and Response program could benefit from having an extension of how we can support the families we want to work with,” Lundquist said. “More specifically, this past year, we are aware that across many of the services we provide there's been a rise in acuity and seriousness of what we are dealing with.”
According to a Journal of Pediatric Nursing the percentage of 5 to 17 year-olds seeking mental health assistance increased by 60 percent during a 10-year period before the pandemic.