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A mobile crisis response program is coming to suburban Matheson

Camry Moore, 23, who has a degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology, wanted a work experience that she thought was different but still within her boathouse. She applied for a position with National Program of Youth AdvocatesThe Matheson Mobile Crisis Response Team got it. Since May, she has been working as a crisis specialist at the South Suburban Crisis Call Center — taking calls from people age 5 and older who need immediate care and intervention for trauma-related crises such as substance abuse, mental health and suicidal thoughts.

“The easiest calls are from people who just want to express themselves,” Moore said. “Maybe someone has just had a death or something and they don’t know what to do, or their child is acting out. Suicide is harder to deal with because some people are at that point where they say, “I’m going to do it now,” and you want to make sure you push them away. You don’t want to steer them the wrong way, say the wrong thing and make them do it.”

For Moore, helping people in a difficult moment and encouraging words was the impetus for becoming a call center operator at the Matteson plant. Founded in 1978, the National Youth Advocacy Program is a private, nonprofit community organization that provides dozens of services to youth and families in 10 states, including Illinois — services such as mobile crisis response.

People in need can call 833-8-CRISIS and connect with a staff member who will identify, assess and attempt to stabilize people in the short term by phone or in person to prevent unnecessary hospitalization, incarceration or displacement. Such interventions reduce the immediate risk of harm to the client, their families and communities, according to Jataev Arnold, a crisis therapist and Matteson program manager.

“The crisis hotline is supposed to be a go-between,” Arnold said. So instead of calling 911 for help, people can contact a mobile response team so they can try to defuse the situation.

“Some people call because they may have problems at home or they may be suicidal or homicidal,” Arnold said. “If a client is suicidal, homicidal or just out of control, our mobile response team will go out into the community and try to de-escalate the situation so that there is no incarceration or psychiatric inpatient stay. Sometimes incarceration or hospitalization in a mental health facility can be more harmful to a person’s mental health than simply having someone defuse the situation. We’re just trying to minimize those things and minimize law enforcement involvement.”

Matteson is NYAP’s third mobile crisis response unit since the organization began serving children and families in 1997. Units exist in Peoria and Rockford. If the call comes in through a national hotline or locally and the caller is closer to one of the other units, the call is forwarded to that region. Matteson’s site is currently open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. He is working to fill a third shift (1am to 9am) and is looking for another 24/7 crisis therapist. Other sites already exist, Arnold said.

“We’re not just a crisis hotline where you call and we talk to you; we can come to you and help you,” she said.

Arnold, who has a master’s degree in counseling, said the goal for staff like her is to get the caller back to a stable mental state over the phone or in person. The staff documents the incident, creates a referral to the mobile therapist, and then the therapist will monitor the client 24 hours a day to check for stability. If the caller wants to continue using the therapist’s mental health services, that is an option.

Other Illinois sites have drop-in centers where potential clients can go for help and additional services. Moore said Matheson is looking to create its own safe space for post-crisis care as the Mobile Crisis Response Team continues to make inroads into the community.

“We want to have a center with game systems for children, exercise machines, televisions – to rest when you need to rest. And if you just come in and you need help, we have resources that we can give you, too,” Moore said.

“Since we’re brand new, there are a lot of things we’re still trying to build and integrate into the community,” Arnold said.

Engagement Specialist Kenyatta Freeman was involved with the community of adults with disabilities before joining the Matheson Crisis Response Team. The Blue Island resident now uses her listening skills and patience for the community at large. Freeman often works the phone with Moore during their 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. Mobile crisis responders work with a clinician to answer calls and provide in-person community response. While an engagement specialist deals with a person’s problem, an intervention specialist can assess the person clinically, Freeman said.

The south suburb gets more calls, with the majority coming from people in their 20s and 30s, Freeman said.

“We’ve gotten calls when people haven’t taken their medication when we’ve spoken to their parent or guardian,” she said. “Mental health is real and after COVID and the pandemic I feel it has gotten worse, especially in the youth environment. COVID has had a big impact. Families fell into poverty. I feel like they don’t know where to go. That’s when they came across our information, trying to find the best help for their child.”

Moore said sometimes an elderly parent calls on behalf of an adult child with mental health issues: “And they say, ‘I’m tired.’ I am exhausted. I don’t know what else to do.” They say, “This is my last resort.” I have nothing left; what can you do for me

“We actually get calls from people saying, ‘I didn’t even know you were real,'” Moore said. “We get the word out about our program and what resources we offer, where we are, our name, so they know we’re here, that we’re real and willing to help. We always ask if they want to meet us in person. We are willing to go to their home and talk to them in person if they feel more comfortable.”

Moore said staff are preparing for the holiday season and a possible influx of calls, as the holiday season is often “a time when people can come out of the bottom with situational depression and anxiety about work, how am I going to feed my family, ” in accordance with Adrienne McCuepresident and chief executive officer A step forward for mental health. A study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows that 64% of people with mental illness report that the holidays make their conditions worse.

Moore’s involvement with the mobile crisis group led her to return to school to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology at State University, a three-year program she plans to graduate in 2025.

“I like to understand what people are thinking and also to encourage them,” she said. “Now I want to delve into the clinical aspect. We are here if you need to talk. Just give us a call. We are here.”



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