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New program available to connect juveniles with needed services

Kortny Hahn
Cheboygan Daily Tribune

March 26, 2022

North Country Community Mental Health is offering a new program to connect juveniles in its six county, 3,000 square mile coverage area to much needed services, including mental health screenings.

These screenings are not the only service provided by North Country Community Mental Health for children and families. A full list of these services can be found at www.norcocmh.org/services-supports. These services are available in Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Otsego, Kalkaska and Antrim counties.

“We serve people from pregnant mamas, all the way up ’til in their hundreds. So we have a large area that we serve,” said Christine Dillon, North Country Community Mental Health director of children and family services, at a recent Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners meeting. “Our focus is children and families. So we’re going to talk about a very new program that we have available as well.”

North Country Community Mental Health is working in partnership with clients, family members and assisting partners to connect with available services in every community they work in. This new program through North Country Community Mental Health is being started in Cheboygan County and was also just made available in Otsego County.

“For this program, children and youth, ages 10-17, are able to receive services through Judy (Crockett)’s work,” said Dillon. “And if they’re at risk for hitting the juvenile justice system, that’s where we want to be. We want to be upstream, and so this is absolutely a prevention program, before adjudication, to get them the supports that they need.”

These supports include behavioral health, community supports, or finding the child a primary care physician for medical services. These services are available to children with different types of insurance, whether it be Medicaid or private health insurance.

“That’s different than many of the other programs through North Country Community Mental Health. So I am able to go out there,” said Judy Crockett, juvenile justice diversion specialist with the organization. “If a child has private insurance, I can see them too.”

Dillon said this is a big change, especially within the last two years with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve certainly had a rise in every community, for children and families that have needed supports,” said Dillon. “Especially behavioral health, mental health supports. We are really tied in our mental health system for North Country Community to be able to provide those supports from Medicaid. We’re really Medicaid bound.”

Dillon said over the last 18 months there has been a huge rise in the number of children who have been going to emergency rooms, potentially for hospitalization, and needing different screenings, but they have different insurance. North Country Community Mental Health was not able to reach these children the way they would like.

“So this is another opportunity to be able to provide those prevention services,” said Dillon.

North Country Community Mental Health has several goals when it comes to be able to provide services to the youth of the area. They want to be able to offer as early identification of issues as possible, so the support is available to the children before they get into the judicial system, including mental health screenings.

The brief mental health screenings are approved by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Once the screenings are complete, Crockett can then provide a recommendation to the parent or guardian on a mental health provider or other provisions in the community available to them.

“Those types of early identifiers are going to be so important in our communities,” said Crockett.

At times, Dillon said they have come into contact with families where there are older siblings who are already in the court system and the younger siblings are having issues. The entity can try to access and offer supports to these younger children, to help keep them out of the court system, and Crockett can work with the family.

“We know that what happens with one child in a family affects everybody in the family,” said Crockett. “So if they have a sibling within the age range, I can certainly provide the same type of screenings for them and help get that family and that child some help.”

Unlike many of the other programs through North Country Community Mental Health, the entity can take third party referrals for students who need help. For example, a teacher can contact the entity, asking for help for specific students. Parents and guardians can also ask, and fill out a referral form.

Anyone needing to make a referral can do so by calling 877-470-7130, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Once she receives a referral form, Crockett follows up with the family within three days and completes the mental health screening within 14 days. She then makes the recommendation, and will also follow up with the families at 30 days, 60 days and at six months to see how things have progressed and if any changes need to be made to the services being provided. She also provides the parents and guardians with written reports and contacts of service providers, so they have something tangible to look back on.

“We have been working very, very hard at creating those community partners, such as civic organizations and governmental organizations, so that the community knows that we’re here and that we can help be part of the solution,” said Crockett.

Anyone who has questions on this program or would like to learn more can contact Crockett by calling 231-347-7890, extension 1251, or email her at jcrockett@norcocmh.org.

Contact Features Writer Kortny Hahn at khahn1@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @khahnCDT.


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