Integrated Crisis Team at LMH Health aims to help in crucial moments
photo by: Autumn Bishop/Contributed Photo
Over the past 15 years, suicide rates in the United States have steadily increased. To be exact, they have increased by 24%.
“This is a unique time in our history. We are seeing an alarming trend of declining life expectancies,” said Derrick Hurst, director of the Integrated Crisis Team. “We expect the life expectancy to be high because of medical advances. However, now, due in part to drug overdoses, alcohol addiction and suicide, life expectancy is declining.”
Too many lives are being lost too soon due to behavioral health issues, and LMH Health wants to help manage this problem in the Douglas County community. This is where the Integrated Crisis Team can help.
The Integrated Crisis Team is a dedicated multiagency team embedded in the emergency department. They embrace the integrated behavioral health/primary care model that meets patients where they are and provide immediate behavioral health intervention, consultation and treatment to ensure better outcomes. The team strives to act quickly because the more time that a patient waits, the more second-guessing happens.
“It can be a difficult thing to ask for help. After a while, if a patient experiencing behavioral health crisis doesn’t have someone alongside them, they may begin to second-guess their choices, and the more time they wait, the more negative their experience can be,” Hurst said. “The same thing applies if a family member was supportive and now they have no idea how to get them where they need to be or don’t have time to address the situation.”
In these situations, the team helps in any way it can — whether that is utilizing DCCCA peer mentors to help transport a patient to social detox or getting them extra clothes they do not have but need for daily life. The Integrated Crisis Team strives to make everything as seamless as possible.
“We are creating new and enhanced ways to deal with acute crisis,” Hurst said.
Studies indicate that as many as 50% of the people who completed suicide did not have a diagnosed mental health condition. Additionally, 21.7% of those who completed suicide had visited the emergency department four weeks prior to their death.
“Of that 21.7% who visited the emergency department before their death, 60% had visited for reasons which were not psychiatric reasons,” Hurst said. “With statistics like these, we have to do something. We need to be a good community partner, and that is what we are aiming to do.”
The Integrated Crisis Team has been operating since early 2018. The team is made up of peer support professionals with lived-in experience, care coordination and behavioral health crisis clinicians. These crisis clinicians are available 24/7 and provide master’s-level help within the emergency department.
“Being a partner for lifelong health is so much more than just being physically ‘healthy,'” Hurst said. “The word ‘health’ doesn’t stop at an injury. It includes mental health, and providing this program with these clinicians will help these patients.”
Hurst said when someone comes into the emergency department at LMH Health, the goal is to serve the patient in the best possible way and get to know them, providing more than a brief and impersonal visit. The Integrated Crisis Team then seeks to identify the next plan of action with the patient.
“We have a team of people who know what to say, what to do and how to help,” Hurst said. “We have many community partners who we refer patients to. These partners help broaden who the LMH Health Integrated Crisis Team can help to serve.”
LMH Health Foundation has been working closely with the Integrated Crisis Team to create a space for patients that is safe but doesn’t feel sterile. The two LMH Health teams are working with Van Go, an arts-based social service agency that provides year-round after-school programs and summer job training programs to high-needs and underserved youth ages 14-24, to create murals that will be installed in the integrated crisis rooms to give them a more comforting feel.
Hurst said the rooms are safe, but safety doesn’t always equal comfort. To serve the patients even more, this project aims to create a space that is secure for the patient but also adds something that is comforting and engaging.
“Working with the LMH Health Foundation and through donor support, we are able to create a space that is more therapeutic,” Hurst said. “Without this donor support, we could not make the space the vision the team has for it.”
— Jessica Brewer is an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Lawrence Journal-World’s Health section.