As the Centers for Disease Control warns of rising suicide rates, a local agency is on the phone and on the road, helping people and saving lives, in an effort to reverse that trend.
"We're put in place in hopes that we can get to the individual before something like that occurs so not only is it preventative, it's also proactive, as well," says Kellie Dunn, M.S., LMSW, of the Neighborhood Center's MCAT, or, Mobile Crisis Assessment Team.
Crisis counselors staff the phones 24/7. If the phone call isn't enough, a team goes out to the person in need to do a face-to-face assessment. Crisis intervention, to go. They serve six counties, including Oneida, Herkimer and Otsego.
"It could be the individual in crisis themselves that calls in to get assistance. It could be a school district calling on behalf of a child that's in crisis, could be law enforcement that needs assistance," says Dunn.
Sometimes, the person simply feels buried by life.
"They're losing their housing, or they're having financial issues. We have crisis ase managers that can essentially be a safety net for those people to get them the immediate help they need," says Dunn.
Other times, the need could be more emergent and a person could be in danger of harming themselves.
"We have the ability to work with law enforcement or work with county officials to designate that person to the emergency department," says Program Director, Kristin Sauerbier, LCSW.
Their numbers are rising. In 2018, the MCAT did 487 face-to-face assessments in Oneida County. This year, they've already done 409, with two and a half months left in the year. At 123, they're only six off from the total number in Otsego County last year.
For the workers, the real payday comes when families thank them. On Friday, Sauerbier read from a letter, handwritten by a grateful father. "Thank you for helping me decide how to help my son. Later, I was able to convince him to stay with his mom, stepfather, where, per his request, the four of us talked for an hour very peacefully. In summary, his mom, stepfather and I are still working together. Thank you.
"It's such a personal, heartfelt response to the outreach that we're able to provide," said Sauerbier. "It's everything. This is the reason why you continue to do what we do."
The number to call for the free MCAT services is 315.732.6228. The program is funded by Oneida County Department of Mental Health.