​SECU Youth Crisis Center Celebrates Second Anniversary

December 2019 marked Monarch’s State Employees’ Credit Union Youth Crisis Center’s (YCC) two-year anniversary and staff could not be prouder of the hundreds of youth, and their families, who are thriving after receiving critical mental health services.

Prior to the YCC opening its doors, youth experiencing a mental health crisis in the Mecklenburg County and surrounding areas sought treatment in a hospital emergency department. Today, children ages 6 through 17 have access to a facility offering timely, age-appropriate mental health care.

The YCC formed thanks to a partnership between Monarch and Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, as well as state and federal officials, the state’s general assembly and community partners. The SECU Foundation generously provided a one-time grant, and continues to support the YCC with donations during the holidays.

Associate Medical Director Dr. Jacqueline Smith explained that the YCC’s initial goal was to offer an alternative for youth experiencing a mental health crisis to avoid lengthy emergency department visits, but also to connect the child and their family to appropriate services so that healing can begin.

Dr. Smith said the staff has surpassed its goals.

Alternative to Emergency Departments

Emergency departments are not always fully equipped to meet the mental health needs of youth, and they also present exposure to a variety of medical situations that could be traumatic for a child. “The YCC is more streamlined. Our lobby is very quiet as opposed to a typical emergency department. If parents call ahead, they can let us know they are coming,” Dr. Smith explained.

Admission to the YCC takes about one hour and includes both a clinical assessment of the child and a meeting with the child’s parent or guardian. In an emergency department, a similar process could take a number of hours or possibly days.
“What we thought, and our stakeholders thought, is that the YCC was going to fill this tiny gap of services for kids who needed crisis stabilization but not the full scope of services required in an inpatient hospital,” Dr. Smith said, noting that depression, acting out behaviors, suicide attempts and substance use disorders are the most common reasons youth seek treatment at the YCC.

“We quickly realized we serve all of those children in need – kids who are acutely psychotic, paranoid and experiencing hallucinations which impact their ability to function in school and within their families. . . We have treated the full spectrum of youth and their families in need of mental health services,” she said, adding that children who have severe diagnoses and behaviors may be referred to another treatment facility.​

Family Support Improves Quality of Care

Family involvement is an important component of care at the YCC. Three sets of daily visiting hours and phone time are worked into the day’s schedule. If immediate family members are not available, the child can connect with someone trusted such as a grandparent, spiritual leader or teacher.

Dr. Smith said that she reassures concerned families when they leave their child after admission: “I let them know that their child is in safe care and contact with family throughout their stay is important. The goal for the child is to go home and be as safe, happy and healthy as possible. Family contact keeps the child reminded of that goal.”

What Does the Future Look Like?

As youth mental health issues change across generations, Dr. Smith noted that the YCC will find ways to assist with trending issues such as the impact of social media; sleep issues, gender identity and sexual preference, and dealing with grief due to the death of a loved one.

Looking toward the future, Dr. Smith predicts continued success for the YCC in assisting children experiencing a mental health crisis. “How does this specific facility fit into the needs of the community? We are guided by doing what is best and appropriate for the youth that we serve . . . What does that child need to be successful outside of these walls? What resources are available to that family?” Dr. Smith said.

For more details about the YCC, visit the website page or contact Monarch at (866) 272-7826.

Posted on: Monday December 16, 2019