“Anytime you make changes, there are going to be issues. What we’ve got now is, we’ve got people that can be called in to help bridge the gap for people in crisis in combination with other services.”
Oversees Mobile Crisis team
By Rebecca Bunch
Monday, December 7, 2015
A new initiative in Chowan County is improving access to care for people suffering from mental illness.
The involvement of an Albemarle area Mobile Crisis team led by Keith Hamm is expected to ease the burden on the emergency room at Vidant Chowan Hospital and local law enforcement officers who are frequently called in to deal with family crisis situations involving mental health issues for which they are not trained.
The team is able to respond to an individual’s requests for assistance before they go to the hospital ER for help. Once they have gone to the ER the team is no longer able to respond, Hamm said. Law enforcement officers can also request help from the team in dealing with crisis situations, he said.
Hamm said he was pleased to be able to assist in providing help to the mentally ill and their families, who often don’t know where to turn except to take their family member to the emergency room or call law enforcement for assistance when a crisis occurs.
Hamm said that options for families in crisis became limited when Albemarle Mental Health closed its doors about seven years ago until East Carolina Behavioral Health in Greenville stepped in to fill the void. As a result of a merger, that agency is today known as Trillium Health Resources.
And where Albemarle Mental Health offered hands-on services, Trillium’s approach has been to make referrals to appropriate agencies. That’s where the Mobile Crisis team can help in emergency situations in Chowan and other Albemarle area counties, Hamm said.
“Anytime you make changes, there are going to be issues,” he said. “What we’ve got now is, we’ve got people that can be called in to help bridge the gap for people in crisis in combination with other services.”
Hamm said his group is guaranteed to respond to appropriate mental health and substance abuse emergencies in their 16 county coverage area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Mobile Crisis services are offered at no charge to those in need whether or not they have insurance, he said. “If there’s a crisis we’ll respond in the middle of the night,” he said.
Betsy Johnstone, who heads the Albemarle chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), said the rapid response would be a godsend for families in the area who aren’t sure where to turn for help.
“Their goal is to have a healthcare professional respond that will work with the family to de-escalate a crisis situation,” she said.
If not for their services, she said, an involuntary commitment could be the result for lack of anything else to offer.
“We want people to get the help they need before they’re in full blown crisis so they can move into recovery,” she said. Johnstone said that NAMI is also encouraging appropriate training and collaboration between the local hospital, law enforcement and county magistrates and the members of the Mobile Crisis unit.
For help in a mental health emergency, call Integrated Family Services Mobile Crisis at (866) 437-1821 seven days a week, 24 hours a day. For information on mental illness and resources, call the NAMI Albemarle Helpline at (252) 370-8090.
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