By Mike Anderson
Posted Jan 26, 2018

It is an almost inconceivable fact that as of 2016, Minnesota ranked 50th in the nation in regard to state-run inpatient psychiatric hospital beds per capita. Data from 2004 from the Treatment Advocacy Center also indicate that subsequently the state has had increasingly more residents with serious mental illness who are incarcerated (2,468) than those who are hospitalized (1,982). It is apparent that there is a challenge of providing immediate and appropriate services to those most in need.

In addition to the obvious answer of attempting to add more hospital beds, Minnesota has also increased funding, training and support for regional mobile crisis mental health services. The Mobile Mental Health Crisis Response Team from Northwestern Mental Health Center is one such team comprised of several mental health professionals, rehabilitation workers and practitioners.

The Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) provides mental health crisis services around-the-clock, 365 days a year for children, adults and families in Polk, Red Lake, Norman and Mahnomen counties, along with coordinating crisis services for Kittson, Roseau, Marshall and Pennington counties.

The crisis team’s mental health professionals and practitioners show up when called through a crisis referral, to directly help people at hospital emergency departments, homes, law enforcement facilities and other settings throughout the community with crisis assessment, interventions and stabilization services.

The MCRT provides community-based crisis services through trained, compassionate and knowledgeable mental health workers. Services are provided over the telephone or face-to-face. Some signs that someone may be experiencing a mental health crisis can include:
‒ Rapid mood swings
‒ Extreme energy or lack of it, sleeping all the time or being unable to sleep
‒ Severe agitation, pacing,
‒ Talking very rapidly or non-stop
‒ Substance use problems
‒ Confused thinking or irrational thoughts
‒ Thinking everyone is out to get them or seeming to lose touch with reality
‒ If they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions
‒ Making threats to others or themselves
‒ Isolating themselves from friends and family, not coming out of their room
‒ Not eating or eating all the time, rapid weight loss or gain
‒ Suicidal thoughts and statements such as “I want to die” or even possible vague statements such as “I don’t want to be here anymore”

There are two MCR teams that are connected and work together to serve an eight-county region of Northwestern Minnesota. The NWMHC team out of Crookston primarily covers Polk, Red Lake, Mahnomen, and Norman counties. The team through Sanford Medical Center in Thief River Falls primarily covers Marshall, Pennington, Kittson, and Roseau counties. The two teams help each other out when needed to ensure that all crisis calls are responded to in as timely a fashion as possible. This can be a challenge when you consider the MCR covers an area larger than the state of New Jersey.

All Crisis calls made in the region come to the NWMHC Crisis Services Unit at our building on Gretchen Lane in Crookston. That unit is staffed 24/7 and from there the call is screened and triaged. We also have two Crisis Beds at the Crookston “Stabilization” site. The bed is used for adult individuals who need brief intervention and stabilization services but do not require in-patient hospitalization.

In 2017, the two MCR teams have received over 1,600 calls from the eight-county region. We average over 130 calls through the Crisis Center every month, and 84 different clients have accessed the Crisis Stabilization beds as well.

It is the mission of the Mental Health Crisis Response team to provide immediate, effective and appropriate services to those in our community who are most in need.

Anyone who needs mental health crisis services can call the crisis line number: 1-800-282-5005

Non-crisis questions can be answered by calling Mike Anderson at 281-5256.

Mike Anderson, MSW is a clinical social worker who has been with Northwestern Mental Health Center since 1996. He is the NWMHC Director for the Mobile Crisis Response Team and Northwest Apartments transitional housing program.

Read this article in the Crookston Times.