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#OTGYpsi: Ypsi-Based Crisis Center Aims To Fill Gaps In Mental Health Services

This week for "On the Ground Ypsi," our weekly conversation with Concentrate Media's Sarah Rigg and WEMU's Lisa Barry, they talk with Melisa Tasker, the program coordinator for the Washtenaw County "CARES team," about the mental health services they provide to the community funded by a 2018 county public safety and mental health preservation millage.

Resources:

Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: New Ypsilanti facility provides safe space for those experiencing mental health crisis

CARES Team

Transcription:

Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89-1 WEMU and this is On The Ground Ypsi, our weekly conversation with the On the Ground Ypsi project manager Sarah Rigg talking about one of her Concentrate Media online stories this week. So welcome, Sarah. What are we talking about this week? And who else from that story is joining our conversation? 

Sarah Rigg: I did a story about one of the cool programs that came out of a recent countywide mental health millage. They established a CAREs team made up of mental health professionals, peer support specialists and others who help people who are in a crisis. And they also have a crisis observation and assessment center that people can go to. Like maybe they don't need to be in jail or and a locked ward, but they do need somewhere safe until they can get stabilized and have a care plan. And I have brought with me Melisa Tasker, who is the program coordinator for the county's CARES team. 

Lisa Barry: Welcome, Melisa. Tell us a little bit about the CARES team to begin with. 

Melisa Tasker: Hi. Yes. So with the mental health millage, we were able to build a team that is able to provide outpatient support services to those individuals who are having a really hard time finding mental health care in the community. We've always had a crisis team that responds to folks who are in a mental health crisis, and they are still up and running. But what we found was that there was a large group of people who were finding themselves in a mental health crisis because they didn't have appropriate access to mental health care. So, our CARES team is able to provide quick, easy access to individuals who need mental health care right away. 

Lisa Barry: First of all, I can't believe it was 2018 when that millage was approved. It seemed like it just was approved not that long ago. But this has been in the works for a while. 

Melisa Tasker: Yeah, I know. We've been operational for the last two years now, and our CARES team has seen over a thousand people, which is really exciting. 

Lisa Barry: That was pre-pandemic. So, here we are now. And I'm assuming that the need for mental health care is bigger than ever. 

Melisa Tasker: Absolutely. We are definitely seeing a large increase in the need for mental health care. Our intakes are going up in the amount of people who are serving are going up as well. 

Lisa Barry: And what kind of services do you provide? 

Melisa Tasker: So, our CARES team provides case management, brief therapy, support from peer support specialists, as well as psychiatry services and nursing services. 

Lisa Barry: But I understand it's more of a short-term situation as well. 

Melisa Tasker: Yes. So, our goal is to stabilize some individuals that come through our door and connect them with other providers in our community that can support them for a long period of time. We do have a lot of mental health providers in Washtenaw County. Unfortunately, many of them have waitlists. So, our goal is to serve them while they're waiting to go to maybe a more longer term provider. 

Lisa Barry: So, where is your center located? Can you describe it a bit for us? 

Melisa Tasker: Sure. So, most of our staff work out of Ypsilanti, but we also have staff that work out of Ann Arbor, and we have staff that travel all over the county. So, especially with our telehealth capabilities now, we really are available anywhere that people need help. 

Lisa Barry: But I understand you have beds, too, so people can stay there? 

Melisa Tasker: Yes. So, our observation and assessment center is an additional service that we offer. And it is a building in Ypsilanti on Towner Street. And our crisis team can bring individuals here who need extra support and maybe some extra monitoring for a day or so. But we don't feel like they need to go to a psych or a locked facility. So this came about because there were a lot of people ending up in the E.R. and psych to we're able to stabilize within 24 hours. So the goal of this program is to stabilize folks who maybe just need a safe place to stay and maybe they need some rest. They need to regroup. They need a safety plan. They need a meal. So, that's where folks can come here. It's staffed primarily with peer support specialists. And then our crisis team provides the clinical support 24 hours a day. 

Lisa Barry: And I understand, Sarah, you spoke with some of those peer support specialist for your story this week. 

Sarah Rigg: I did. It was really interesting because peer support specialists, they go through a certification through the state, and they do,you know, have some clinical knowledge. But what they bring is lived experience with mental health, substance use disorder, things along those lines, so they can relate on a really personal level and meet people where they are. And they kept using that term "meet people where they are." And one of the people I talked to, Tammy, who is mentioned in the story, literally meets people where they are. She said if it's at a party store or, you know, "I'll sit down on the curb with them, if I have to, to connect with them." That was pretty cool. 

Lisa Barry: Melisa, we are a lot of conversation these days in the community about non-police intervention. And I feel like this is perhaps there's a bit of that involved in this situation as well. 

Melisa Tasker: Absolutely. So, our 24-hour crisis team outreaches to individuals in the community who have mental health needs without law enforcement, really a lot. Most of the time. We had calls that come through to our crisis line from individuals who find themselves in a mental health crisis. Family members. We get calls from primary care offices, doctors' offices. We get calls from anywhere in the community needing help figuring out what to do with their loved one or their friend. We do also get calls from law enforcement. We partner with them because people still call 911 when they're in a mental health crisis. And law enforcement still respond to those calls. But they do call us to help them, though, to provide them with support, information, and assistance to navigate those really tough scenarios. There are also situations where we do need to call law enforcement. So, it needs to be a partnership, and we are working on that. But for the majority of the time, our crisis team is responding in the community without law enforcement. 

Lisa Barry: Can you describe what kind of mental health crisis you're dealing with or if people will know, :Hey, I need I could use these services. Hey, if something's going on," and they don't know which way to turn, how do they know to turn to you? 

Sarah Rigg: So, I would say, you know, mental health needs range from a variety of needs. So, our CARES team can provide support for you if you find yourself having an increase in depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and you're having a really hard time maybe going on with your day-to-day life. And things are getting a little bit more difficult. When I say mental health crisis, I'm talking about individuals who maybe are feeling suicidal or homicidal or feeling maybe they haven't slept in several days. Maybe they're having a manic episode. Maybe they're having a psychotic episode. Those types of things we would consider mental health crises that we would respond to. So, one of the things we want to make clear in the story, and so I want to make it clear in the segment, too, is that th-i is not a drop-in or drop-off or walk-in. You have to be referred. But there is a phone number to that general crisis team and maybe Melisa could say that. And that's for anybody. 

Melisa Tasker: Yes. So, our 24-hour crisis line is seven three four five four four three zero five zero. And anyone can call that line and get connected to a mental health professional 24 hours a day. And you can ask general questions. You can request help from our crisis team who can come out to see you wherever you are. You can request an intake for our outpatient services, and you can request help to maybe come to our assessment center. And that would be through our crisis team as well. 

Lisa Barry: Melisa Tasker, program coordinator for Washtenaw County's CARES Program. And Sarah Rigg, we look forward to reading more about it with your On the Ground Ypsi story this week. Thanks to both of you for talking to us here on WEMU. 

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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