Community Impact Grant tackles youth mental health crisis

WellFully, a long-time partner agency of UWBH, received a $52,150 community impact grant to transform a section of their existing facility to provide crisis counseling and care to local youth to address the growing need of crisis counseling for this demographic. 

Pictured:Jamie Toennies, UWBH Executive Director, presents Community Impact Grant check to Burke Eilers, Exective Director at WellFully
Pictured:Jamie Toennies, UWBH Executive Director, presents Community Impact Grant check to Burke Eilers, Exective Director at WellFully

“South Dakota has the second highest level of per capita suicide among youth in the country. Currently we have only one level of care and support for youth considering suicide or who are in crisis,” says Burke Eilers, Executive Director at WellFully.

Currently youth can only access crisis care through the emergency department, the highest level of care. 

Between Jan 2016 and Aug 2018 there were 2,393 patients under 18 seen at the Emergency Department for a behavioral health issue, with 21% of these patients being discharged directly from the emergency department and not receiving any services. 

“If a youth and their family goes through the process of going to the emergency department and they don’t meet the highest level of need to be admitted to the west unit that does not mean they aren’t in need of services; this center will be able to help those 500+ youth that were sent home,” says Eilers.

The purpose of the Crisis Care center is to provide crisis services 24-7 for youth in middle and high school. This outpatient, voluntary, walk-in center will work to screen, assess, observe, de-escalate and stabilize a youth in crisis in a culturally appropriate way. The center will also be an access point to refer to appropriate services/level of care. 

The crisis center will be physically located at WellFully with Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board and Lutheran Social Services assisting with case management staff possibly on site or as an on-call service.

The primary function is to increase access to services for youth and families in a trauma informed manner. Through this center, a youth will receive streamlined care and a stabilization plan will be developed - connecting youth to support in the community, we can address underlying needs while keeping them safe.

In 2020, there were 728 youth admissions to the Behavioral Unit - some of these admissions may have been more appropriate for a lower level of care. Often the youth and families just need to have a venue to talk over and process the current challenges as well as become connected to additional services

“United Way of the Black Hills is the most universal example of community support and includes the business community as well as individuals from all walks of life. The association with United Way also includes the connection of fellow not-for-profit agencies that will be critical to the success of this community effort from a referral standpoint as well as a source of support to the kids and families we will serve,” says Eilers.