JoCo on the Go Podcast: Youth Crisis Stabilization Center

On episode #165 of JoCo on the Go, we discuss a Youth Crisis Stabilization Center in Johnson County, which will help address one of the most significant gaps in care in the community by providing a place for young people to go when they experience a mental health crisis or emergency. Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, and Robert Sullivan, director of the Johnson County Department of Corrections, join the conversation to discuss the new project.

JoCo on the Go Preview: Youth Crisis Stabilization Center

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Time Subject
00:33 Introduction
01:01 Need for a youth crisis stabilization center
03:25 What does a crisis stabilization center do?
07:52 What interventions will be provided?
14:38 Layout and staffing at the center
20:29 Feedback from those who need these services


Andy Hyland 0:00 

Earlier this year, Johnson County announced a new youth crisis stabilization center to help young residents in the county in crisis situations. The county will have 10 beds to offer young people some time to de-escalate a situation, rather than resorting to other options that can lead to increased incarceration rates.

Announcer 0:19 

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Andy Hyland 0:33 

Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Andy Hyland. I work in public affairs here at Johnson County Government. And we're here to talk about a new youth crisis stabilization center here in Johnson County. And joining us today to discuss this work is Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, and Robert Sullivan, Johnson County's director of the Department of Corrections. So welcome to you both.

Robert Sullivan 0:58 

Thank you.

Tim DeWeese 1:00 

Glad to be here.

Andy Hyland 1:01 

So thanks for joining us today. And I'd like for both of you to start by telling us the need you see in this community that this new center will address.

Tim DeWeese 1:10 

So from my standpoint, I think that from the Mental Health Center standpoint particularly, we have done a lot to address crisis situations for adults. And we have a number of options. And Robert and I have worked on a couple of different projects to work with adults, and this, specifically, we saw a very similar need for young people. And when we talk about, in particular helping divert or deflect young people from the criminal justice system, and also provide assistance when they're experiencing crisis. That's something that we've heard about from our community. It's something that we've heard about particularly from law enforcement. And so I think, in my mind, it's basically a need that we know we had, it was something that we were hearing from the community. And so as we have done for several years now, Robert and I figured out a way to make it happen.

Andy Hyland 2:18 

Robert, can you talk about maybe from the Corrections side of things, what sort of the need looks like from your area?

Robert Sullivan 2:24 

Yeah no, one of the things that our juvenile intake and assessment center does is, when law enforcement has an interaction with a child, they will bring them to the juvenile intake and assessment center. And what Tim's program's going to be able to do is allow the law enforcement officer to get back on patrol. And right now we have a youth in crisis, there's a number of steps that a police officer has to do and follow that involves mental health. And they are still kind of connected to that case and cannot get back on patrol. And so clear by mental health, once they're cleared by mental health, then they can be brought back to the juvenile intake and assessment center. By co-locating the crisis stabilization center with our juvenile intake and assessment center, it will allow the law enforcement to bring the youth to juvenile intake and assessment, we'll go ahead and do our assessment. And if the youth is in crisis, Tim's team is right there. And the law enforcement officer will go right back on patrol again.

Andy Hyland 3:25 

That's great. Tim, maybe you can help walk me through a little bit. What does it mean to be in crisis? What does that mean for the population? And what does the stabilization crisis center do and how does it help that person?

Tim DeWeese 3:41 

Oh, in this particular situation and from a mental health perspective, typically what we say is that the people themselves, the clients themselves, they really define what is a crisis. So we don't necessarily have a definition of what a crisis is. It's basically when someone's experiencing psychological distress, maybe they are what we refer to as unregulated with their emotions and maybe not in full control of themselves or just agitated or high anxiety, or in the worst kinds of most serious situations, they may actually be experiencing some suicidal ideation. I think, in particular, where this system will will help is that in these situations, these young people have come into contact with law enforcement because of some reason, and so this is actually an option for the law enforcement to be able to look at, you know, other possibilities other than just a providing them a trip to the JIAC and into detention, but that we actually can provide assessment and do that in collaboration with the the juvenile intake, the JIAC, and determine what is the best course of action for this young person? And how can we help alleviate whatever symptoms that may be occurring or whatever the crisis situation is?

Andy Hyland 5:28 

Maybe Robert, can you describe how you work with mental health professionals now to address these kinds of issues that arise among people who are in the corrections system? And how the center can help maybe fill the gap?

Robert Sullivan 5:39 

Yeah I can. So I work with the Mental Health Center, Corrections does on just so many things, both on our adult side of operations, as well as the juvenile side. Tim has a forensics team embedded in our probation operations to help individuals that are in need of mental health services. Tim also has qualified mental health professionals embedded in our TC and our problem solving beds at the adult residential center. He has...we've partnered on functional family therapy, which is family therapy in their home setting. He does psychological evaluations for Corrections. We regularly refer to the crisis team when we encounter somebody that is in crisis. And we've interacted with his co-responders as well. So there's just a number of ways that Corrections works very closely with the Mental Health Center, and have done so for several years now.

Tim DeWeese 6:37 

And I think that one of the things that I might just add is that, you know, one of the things that Robert started saying when I first met him is that not every criminal justice situation demands a criminal justice response, but that what we're dealing with is human beings and that with humans, and with individuals that are experiencing a crisis, you know, there are a whole option, there are a lot of different options that we can provide. And so, you know, with a standpoint, coming from that standpoint, both from law enforcement, whether you're talking about law enforcement, or you're talking about the Corrections Department, when you approach it from that kind of a human perspective, then it makes it really easy for us to partner and come up with good plans and ways to help people reach their fullest potential. And I think at the end of the day, that's really what we want for these young people is to be able to help address, help calm some issues down, help address their immediate concerns, and then let them, you know, reach their fullest potential.

Andy Hyland 7:53 

Tim, I think that's a great segue into the next sort of topic I was going to talk about. Can you maybe walk us through an encounter that what this would look like for somebody? Who they might be dealing with, if they come in through, what the situation looks like at the front end, and then the interventions you all will be able to provide through the center and what it looks like in the back end?

Tim DeWeese 8:13 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think Robert can definitely add to this, because it's something that we both see and we hear from families in particular and from law enforcement. So it may be a situation where a young person is at home, they're dysregulated, meaning they're experiencing some high anxiety distress. And you know, parents just aren't sure what to do, and so law enforcement becomes involved. And at that point in time, law enforcement can decide what the best alternative is. In some cases, they may just de-escalate the situation themselves, others there may be no de-escalating the situation. So they'll bring the kid to the juvenile intake and assessment center to be evaluated. And what currently happens is they may receive an evaluation, but there's no immediate treatment, there's no immediate intervention. And so what happens is that there are two options: one, the child could set there at the intake facility, or the parents could come back and get them, or they're released back to their parents. And going back home without any support or any intervention typically results in another instance, where we just kind of see the same kind of thing happen, and it could be the same night, it could be the same day, it could be the same week. You know, it could be later in the month, but at the end of the day, it's kind of a revolving door. And so my hope, and I think Robert's hope is that by doing this, we actually intervene and be able to allow everyone to kind of calm down, provide support for the family members, provide support for the youngster, and then make a plan, you know, 24, 72 hours later to have them come back together, maybe when cooler heads can prevail and we actually have support systems for them. So I think what we heard from families was that it just seemed like they would call the police, and the police would take their kids and then nothing would happen. Or maybe they were admitted to a hospital to a more restrictive level of care. Maybe they were put in juvenile detention. I don't know what the other options were, and Robert can kind of speak to that. But this actually provides us an alternative to not look at those more restrictive options. It gives us an option to be able to work with the kid and the family to come up with a suitable outcome.

Robert Sullivan 11:05 

Yeah Andy, Tim did a great job of explaining one of our gaps. So juvenile intake and assessment is designed to handle a child that comes in, brought in by law enforcement for abuse and neglect. We have 72 hours to find a suitable placement for that youth while the District Attorney's Office investigates the abuse and neglect and makes a decision of whether or not they're going to file charges. We're also really good when kids act like kids and do age-appropriate behavior that gets the attention of law enforcement with shoplifting, graffiti, underage drinking. We do an intake and assessment contact the parents to come pick up their child. Or sometimes the youth will do a serious crime. And again they'll come through juvenile and take an assessment and be lodged in our juvenile detention center, pending an appearance before the court. What Tim describes is a gap that we just never had an answer for, and parents and a lot of our criminal justice and human service partners have been asking for, and the youth crisis stabilization center will be able to close that gap that Tim described. So if we have a youth that they're not abused or neglected, but they are decompensating, they're struggling to get along with their parents, they've not committed a crime but law enforcement gets called, that was one of the gaps that we could not help frustrated parents with, we couldn't help frustrated youth with. We could make referrals to the mental health, but we couldn't do anything in that moment. And what Tim described is what we termed as a gap that we attempted to set out to close. And we believe that the youth crisis stabilization center does just that.

Tim DeWeese 12:57 

Well Andy, I think you also asked specifically during that time, what kinds of interventions that we would provide. And really, the main focus kind of interventions within that would really be helping the young people themselves learn and maybe develop some self-regulation, some emotion regulation, so that we know, if you're getting into a situation with your parents, not only will you hope that the parents can regulate themselves, but also to teach the young people how to begin to regulate their own emotions, so that they're able to respond to the situation as opposed to react emotionally. And when we react emotionally, that's when we tend to get in trouble. That is, our behavior is emotion-based. And really what we want people to do is to be able to control those emotions and be able to respond appropriately. And so that really, the interventions are going to be one, just providing just a safe and a secure place for them to calm down. The second is then to provide some tools for them to be able to learn how to manage their emotions and regulate themselves. And then I think at the same time, then we can also work with the parents to do the same thing. And I think in being able to do those things, that's where we are able to hopefully divert or deflect these young people in those families from more intensive levels of care.

Andy Hyland 13:42 

That's great. And Tim, can you maybe talk about what does the center look like and what does the staffing level look like? And I think I've just heard about a 10-bed facility, is that correct? And just describe what it looks like and what the staff are.

Tim DeWeese 14:54 

Right. So the facility itself is there in the Youth and Family Services Center. It's one unit of three. We currently have our adolescent center for treatment on one unit, this unit will serve as our youth crisis stabilization center. And it will be staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it's located there at the Youth and Family Services where the JIAC is also located. So we'll be able to work intensively, collaboratively with the Corrections folks at the juvenile intake and assessment center. Additionally, then there'll be clinicians, they'll be what we call behavioral health specialists, that will work with the kids. And typically, you'll have a couple of behavioral health specialists at any given time with the kids on the unit, as well as then some other clinical staff that will be there. If we have the need to maybe start someone on medication, if we need somebody to be seen from a psychiatric perspective, then we can also pull those resources in at that point in time.

Andy Hyland 16:14 

I think for both of you, how do you describe the scope of this issue that you're facing? And just the size of the context of this issue in our community, how big of a deal is this here and across the nation?

Robert Sullivan 16:30 

I can start, Andy. I think as mental health awareness has increased, then we've noticed the demand increase, and we're trying to get our capacity to align with that increase in demand. So I think there's just a lot of behaviors that are mental health-related that manifest themselves in such a manner that they get the attention of the criminal justice system. And as Tim alluded to earlier, what we're trying to do is just make sure that we don't have folks start to go down a path in the criminal justice system, that there's a better path for them. And so the criminal justice system has its place and its target population, and we're just trying to do a better job of maybe screening some of those youth that should go down a different path than them.

Tim DeWeese 17:21 

Now from my standpoint, I think it's a big deal from a community perspective. I think it's a big deal. I think all of us, whether you're a Corrections staff, or a Mental Health Center staff, or even law enforcement, we want to be able to make sure that the right people get to the right places. And Robert's right, there's a need for a juvenile detention facility. And we just want to make sure that the right kids, the right young people are there, and that we are able to deflect or to divert the others into a more appropriate setting. And I think that it's a big deal. Ten beds, it's a small amount of beds. But you know, it's better than no option. And so I think we'll have a better idea this time next year when we look at the usage. I think the other thing is how quickly we're able to turn over those beds. So if we're looking at, you know, 24 to 72 hours, and being able to kind of mitigate and reduce some of the anxiety and tension within the family unit and be able to get kids back home, I think that's better for everyone. And that actually then allows us to serve a lot more people. If we have 10 beds clogged, because people are staying there days, then it creates more of an issue. But I think what our goal will be is to really work quickly to have the young people themselves regulate their emotions, provide support to the families and get them back at home where they belong.

Andy Hyland 19:01 

How did we come up with this model? What, are there other similar crisis centers throughout the state and the country that we've modeled this on?

Tim DeWeese 19:09 

Well, actually, you know, from a behavioral health perspective, there are quite a few of them popping up across Kansas. And I would say if you talk with folks at the state, our state leadership, they would say that Kansas is probably a leader in this area, in particular with youth crisis services and youth crisis facilities. I think that for Robert and I, it made sense because it was just something that we continue to hear. We do a lot of work, Robert has done a lot of work with something called the sequential intercept mapping process. And that really tends to lead to identifying gaps within the system of care from a county perspective, and being able to work and collaborate in ways that we can fill those gaps makes a lot of sense. And so I think for us it just made sense for us. But I think we're doing it a little bit different. One crisis center may not look like every other crisis center in Kansas. So we're going to have kind of a unique twist on it, you know, partnering with the juvenile intake and assessment center. But again, the idea is to create what meets the need for your specific community. And I think that's what we've been able to do here.

Andy Hyland 20:29 

What is...I know, it's still a new program. So what I wonder if you've heard any kind of feedback from families or those who care for children who need these kinds of services?

Tim DeWeese 20:41 

You know, I think that initially, what we're hearing is people are excited about the potential. I know that we're getting ready to co-host a community forum with Robert and his staff to talk about this and also get feedback from the community about, okay, so now that we're putting this in place, what are some of the things that they think we should think about? What's the information that we need to know as the provider of this service? But I think on the whole, everybody's really excited about the possibility, because at the end of the day, what we're doing is exactly what Robert said, is that we're identifying ways to help kids down a different road, down a different track. And at the end of the day, that's what we want. We want to see young people meet their fullest potential and do good things. And so if we're able to help redirect them in a positive direction, then I think we've done our jobs, and we've helped our community.

Andy Hyland 21:49 

Robert, any other specific feedback you've heard or from members of the communities that you serve?

Robert Sullivan 21:54 

No, what I'm hearing is consistent with what Tim said. And if we do this right, then we're going to be able to set youth up for success, them and their families.

Andy Hyland 22:05 

That's great. Anything else people should know about this program, the need for it or how to get connected to it if they need?

Tim DeWeese 22:14 

I mean, I think the easiest way is right now, initially, we're going to focus on law enforcement bringing people to the JIAC. I think as we improve the processes and see that, then we will likely hopefully open it so that, if a parent, before they call the police, if the parent just wants to reach out to us directly and make a referral to the center, then we can do that. So I think it's just, in my mind is kind of stay tuned, keep your ear to JoCo on the Go and kind of see if there's anything else that happens, and we'll try to keep everybody aware of the progress.

Andy Hyland 22:59 

Robert, anything else you'd like to share?

Robert Sullivan 23:01 

No, I completely agree with Tim said.

Andy Hyland 23:05 

Very good. Well, thanks to both of you. Thank you for sharing such good information today. And good luck in launching the program.

Robert Sullivan 23:12 

Thanks, Andy.

Tim DeWeese 23:13 

Thanks, Andy. Appreciate it.

Announcer 23:14 

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at jocogov. For more on this podcast, visit Thanks for listening.

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