Oversized scissors cut through a big blue ribbon and a giant door opened for the youth of Idaho. Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Pathways Youth Community Support Center on Emerald Street celebrated the launch of Boise’s first Youth Behavioral Health Community Crisis Center (YBHCCC) October 10, 2023. The doors officially open Oct. 16 and the hope is they will never close.
The YBHCCCs welcome youth aged 12-17 who are in a behavioral health crisis. After the first year of implementation, the age range of youth served will expand to 5-17. These are free, safe places for youth and their families to get immediate assistance without an appointment. They stand as an alternative to juvenile detention and/or the hospital system.
“Youth and their families can come in here any time, without consideration of their ability to pay for these services,” said Pathways Executive Director Ryan Jones. “They can come in to see a clinician for a behavioral health assessment, a nurse for a medical assessment, and meet with a case manager to link them to the resources they need.”
The space welcomes youth with bright colors and spacious offices. There are beds to take respite, meeting rooms for staff, and private rooms for clinicians to conduct assessments. Youth can stay for 23 hours, 59 minutes.
The 24/7 youth crisis center is the third to open in Idaho this year. Idaho Falls and Twin Falls YBHCCCs are open, and another center will open in Nampa in January 2024.
“This facility and the others [across Idaho] are really meant to be a service to kids, without being part of the juvenile corrections system,” said Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections Director Monty Prow.
IDJC worked to secure the initial funding for the four YBHCCCs, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare will now work to secure their long-term future.
Youth often first enter the continuum of care in Idaho after a crisis becomes an emergency. They end up committing a crime or being taken to a hospital. “That’s not necessary,” said Ross Edmunds, Behavioral Health administrator at DHW.
“We can’t define what crisis means for an individual,” Edmunds said. “With kids and adolescents, it might just be conflict between them and their family. The kid does something, breaks a window, and there’s no place else; they get arrested, go to a detention center, or parents are recommended to take the youth to a hospital.”
Youth in crisis who enter the juvenile justice system may receive mental health treatment, and often their records are expunged. Youth who go to the hospital may receive medical care, behavioral health information, and a safety plan. If they do not have Medicaid, they will have a copay for ongoing community treatment. Incarceration, cost, stress, complication, embarrassment—these are obstacles the YBHCCCs intend to help families avoid.
“I think [YBHCCCs] will be a great way to divert from unnecessary hospitalization,” said Belinda Dalrymple, St. Alphonsus emergency department psychiatric clinician, and a member of the Boise center’s advisory board. “Just looking through the windows, you can see there is happy painting on the walls. You walk into the emergency room, and it’s all wires and beeps and sounds. Here it’s a lot more relaxed, laid back, super chill.”
The most important aspect of the YBHCCCs is that they’ll ensure the appropriate level of crisis treatment is obtained. Most youth don’t need hospitalization and certainly don’t need incarceration.
“The revolving door we see in detention centers and emergency departments and psychiatric units at hospitals is completely unnecessary,” Edmonds said. “We started this journey with crisis centers, but we’re not done yet in terms of our crisis development. We also need people to respond within our community. We have our partners in law enforcement who respond, but they need the support of mobile response teams to join them. We’re working on developing the entire continuum.”
Youth and their parents, schools, law enforcement, hospitals, 988, DHW, IDJC, the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, the State Legislature, the Governor’s Office and many private partners like Pathways and their counterparts in other Idaho cities join in this together. Many hands are needed for heavy work.
Edmunds said 10 years ago there were zero crisis centers in Idaho. Now there are seven for adults and three for youth, with one more on the way. With the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, Idahoans have someone to call any time they need. Now, with YBHCCCs, youth in crisis also have a place to go.
Dustin Lapray is a public involvement officer with the Division of Behavioral health at DHW.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.
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