- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - The Center for Mental Health is opening a six-bed Youth Crisis Home in Great Falls.

The center will provide crisis intervention that will allow youth ages 6 to 18 to stay in the community while receiving treatment, the Great Falls Tribune (https://gftrib.com/1OoOZEJ) reported. Youth can stay at the home for up to 14 days.

Currently, youth who are experiencing a mental health crisis can be sent to Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena, Acadia Montana in Butte or Yellowstone Girls or Boys Ranch in Billings for high-level care, or they can be sent home.

The out-of-town transfers mean an average of 90 days away from family, friends, home and school, said Center for Mental Health CEO Sydney Blair.

“That is not the ideal,” Blair said. “Although the treatment is good, it’s not the ideal.”

Last year, the center received a grant to provide 24-hour case managers for youths in crisis. During a 10-month period, they received 108 calls, 70 percent of which came from a young person having suicidal thoughts.

“That’s when we learned that there was really a gap in terms of sending them home versus outside of the community,” Blair said. “There should be something in between.”

The crisis home may also divert some youth who end up in the Juvenile Detention Center, Blair said.

“Our assumption is a lot of kids are entering into the legal system because they are untreated, and it’s really our goal to divert those kids from that environment and that system and get the treatment they need,” she said. “It’s not an appropriate setting for them. That is not where they’re going to get well.”

The Youth Crisis Center has grant money to operate through July 1, 2017. Blair said she hopes to keep the facility open through further grants, money from foundations and community donations.

The center is fully staffed and is awaiting licensure approval, Blair said. She hopes the center will be open by the end of May.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, https://www.greatfallstribune.com


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