In an effort to provide a faster clinical response to a potential crisis, North Country Community Mental Health recently unveiled a new 24-hour crisis help line at (877) 470-4668 via Protocall Services.
According to its website, Protocall Services — a provider of specialty telephonic behavioral health services — has had more than 275 behavioral health organizations make use of its offerings since 1992 to provide seamless access to crisis assessment, intervention and stabilization provided by master’s- and doctoral-level clinicians.
“What we’re trying to do and our whole goal is to provide a faster, clinical response and sometimes if somebody calls and if they get Protocall, they may not have to go to an emergency room,” said Stacey Chipman, chief clinical officer with North Country Community Mental Health.
“There will be a clinician on the other end,” Chipman said. “We used to have volunteers on the other end who did really good volunteer work, but we needed people with very strong clinical skills.”
Chipman said North Country Community Mental Health has had a crisis line for some 30 years through Third Level Crisis Center, which is based in Traverse City.
“We’ve had an arrangement with them where they did some basic counseling and more crisis resolution,” Chipman said. “They also served as our answering service as we also have after-hours emergency services.”
Chipman said a typical scenario for hotline through the years involved someone showing up in an emergency room in one of the six counties North Country Community Mental Health serves (Emmet, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Antrim, Kalkaska and Otsego). Hospital staff would contact Third Level, which in turn would get in contact with staff at North Country Community Mental Health.
“We would go to the emergency room to evaluate to see if they would need to be psychiatrically hospitalized,” Chipman said. “We’ve done that for 30 years.
“What has happened over the last 30 years, is if someone was on call they might get called out,” Chipman said. “It has been my daytime staff doing nighttime work. They’d do a rotation and take turns responding to emergency rooms on nights and weekends. It got so big my staff would be out all night long and they couldn’t come in the next day to work, they’d be exhausted.
“You can’t work people 24/7.”
Along with implementing the new 24-hour crisis hotline via Protocall, the agency also hired staff to be stationed in emergency rooms in both their north (Emmet, Charlevoix, Cheboygan counties) and south (Antrim, Kalkaska and Otsego) regions.
“We now have someone placed at McLaren and they come in at 4 p.m. and work until midnight and another person works from midnight until 8 a.m.,” Chipman said. “We also have someone there during the day who also responds to Charlevoix and Cheboygan. In the south, we have the same thing and they respond to Otsego Memorial and Kalkaska Memorial Hospital.”
Chipman said the decision was made so staff wasn’t out all night, but the agency also realized people were ending up in the emergency room way too often.
“We really needed a clinical response that used to call Third Level or another crisis line,” Chipman said. “We put out a request for proposal and ProtoCall is who we decided to go with.”
Chipman said by no means did North Country Community Mental Health have a falling out with Third Level or not appreciate their work.
“We needed to improve the clinical response because there was a huge need for it,” Chipman said. “We want to keep people out of emergency rooms, we want people to get into our offices and be seen the next day, but we also need someone who can give them very simple therapeutic instructions on how to keep safe, how to access services or how to calm yourself down.”
The new 24-hour crisis hotline debuted on March 1.
“Things have been going good, and I really want to say we honor the work Third Level did,” Chipman said. “We’ve been very pleased.”
For more information regarding services available at North Country Community Mental Health, visit www.norcocmh.org.
This article originally appeared on Petoskeynews.co