Amanda Weisbrod

By Amanda Weisbrod

The Observer

As part of a statewide initiative to boost outpatient behavioral health services, the Center for Human Development formalized a mobile crisis team in July 2018 and hired a new crisis coordinator in December of the same year.

The CHD’s eight-member mobile crisis team meets with distressed individuals to de-escalate situations, preventing serious harm to the people in crisis and others around them in the process. Although the organization already had a mobile crisis team in place, CHD re-defined its outreach program last summer due to passed state legislation mandating guidelines for county behavioral health initiatives.

Aaron Grigg, mental health director at CHD, said the mobile crisis team’s take-charge approach in addressing behavioral health issues around Union County is the best way to give individuals the chance to stabilize and remain in the community, rather than being sent to a psychiatric hospital.

“The intent with the mobile crisis team is to be more proactive in addressing emotional and psychiatric crises,” Grigg said. “The idea is that we have a team of individuals who work very closely with law enforcement and other care providers in the community to meet clients where they’re at when they’re in a crisis.”

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen said because the state mandates at least one hour of crisis intervention training per deputy each year, the sheriff’s office deputies have completed 168 hours of CIT since 2015. This specialized training focuses on appropriately de-escalating situations based on an individual’s mental state, whether or not they possess a weapon and if they have committed a crime.

“The training gives them the communication tools and some of the things to look for in terms of what people might be having trouble with and how to best calm the situation down,” he said.

Rasmussen said the sheriff’s office partnership with the CHD has been instrumental in providing crisis services to the community, as law enforcement officers are often the first to arrive at a scene of behavioral crisis and call the mobile crisis team in later.

“We’ve had a great working relationship with our CHD and the local mental health providers,” the sheriff said. “That’s not always the case in all jurisdictions because there are different goals, but I think we’re very patient in dealing with the people who have trouble.”

Grigg agrees.

“Our local (law enforcement) are pretty good at recognizing those issues and helping to de-escalate,” he said. “Typically what (they) do, and our agreement with them, is they’ll make sure the location is safe and then they’ll give us a call and we’ll go out there, responding immediately.”

Although state legislation requires behavioral health services to respond to a crisis situation in no more than two hours, CHD’s mobile crisis team signed a contract with the sheriff’s office declaring they would always respond within 15 minutes, no matter the situation, even if that just means phoning in to update them on their estimated arrival time.

Candiss Williams, who was hired on as the CHD’s mobile crisis team coordinator in December 2018, said she moved to La Grande from Kansas City, Missouri, specifically to work with people who are experiencing crisis.

“I’m interested in moving from sitting in an office doing one-on-one counselling to being able to interact with different community partners and connecting with clients in hectic, high-crisis times,” she said. “(That’s when) they’ve reached a point where they really want to reach out for help. I’ve had a good response with connecting with people during those times.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer