Mental Meltdown

MCAT 24-hour crisis hotline valuable resource for those in trouble

By Barbara Pierce

“Call us if you’re feeling overwhelmed and you need someone to talk to.”

Licensed clinical social worker Kristin Sauerbier invites anyone who is having a difficult day and might benefit from some extra support to call the MCAT 24-hour crisis hotline.

As director of the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team, Sauerbier believes there is a misconception in the community that people must be having thoughts of suicide before they can reach out to MCAT for help.

This is what she would like people to know: “We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people who need a little support as well as those who are seriously depressed and having thoughts of suicide.”

The services are available to children and adults.

“Going to the ER when you’re having a mental health crisis can be traumatic and often is not the best way to get help.”

“There is no charge for our services,” she added. “We’ll talk over the phone, or go to where you are if you’re agreeable to talking in person.”

MCAT is available to anyone seeking crisis intervention in six counties: Oneida, Herkimer, Schoharie, Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties. It is a contracting partnership of The Neighborhood Center, Inc. and the Oneida, Herkimer, Schoharie, Otsego, Delaware and Chenango departments of mental health, working collaboratively with a number of community agencies and resources.

MCAT accepts referrals from individuals in crisis, their families, law enforcement, school personnel or the general community.

What constitutes a crisis is very different for everyone, Sauerbier clarified. It can range from someone who is temporarily overwhelmed with life’s issues and would benefit from talking through the situation, to someone who is thinking of hurting themselves or others.

Some of the crisis that MCAT responds to include threats to harm self or others, behavioral issues, severe depression or anxiety, mental health symptoms, erratic behavior, behaviors that may lead to police intervention, or any problem that is causing a serious problem in functioning.

“We’re staffed by mental health professionals who have background and experience to understand the thoughts that you are having and what you may be feeling,” she added.

Mental health professionals are especially trained to diagnose mental health conditions and provide coping skills, intervention and treatment. Most have at least a master’s degree or more advanced education, training and credentials.

Reaching out

“There are a couple of ways we provide services,” Sauerbier noted. “Folks can call our crisis hotline and talk over the phone, or we’ll go to where you are to meet with you in person. Our counselors can talk you through a crisis and help you develop a plan using resources in the community. Also, we can refer you to an in-house case manager or peer advocate for continuing assistance.

“In addition, professionals in the community such as doctors, those in law enforcement, or school personnel can refer someone to us. Family members or anyone in the community can refer someone. Quite often the police contact us.”

This range of services — from resolving the crisis and debriefing to ongoing peer support — has been especially helpful to provide stability in the lives of persons who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, she said.

The goal of MCAT is to de-escalate a crisis situation, prevent possible harm, keep the problem outside of the legal system and divert people from the emergency room and in-patient care when it may not be required.

“Going to the ER when you’re having a mental health crisis can be traumatic and often is not the best way to get help,” she added.

MCAT crisis counselors can meet with you in the community — in your home, in a Dunkin’ Donuts, or anywhere you wish. If you need to get to the emergency room, they can get you there.

When a member of the team talks with someone in crisis, they find out just what is going on, what may have caused the crisis, and assess the situation. They evaluate what supports the person has at that time, and develop a plan to de-escalate the crisis and prevent it from happening again. They may do a safety contract so that the person can remain in the community, with supports and resources in place.

The team links the person up to services that may be beneficial for ongoing assistance. For example, if on-going mental health counseling would help, the person is referred to resources for continued counseling. If medication would be appropriate, the person is referred to a resource where he or she can obtain medication.

If in-patient care is necessary, a team member arranges for that intervention.

They coordinate with school, medical and mental health providers, and other agencies for persons at risk.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, referrals may be made to the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by calling 315-272-6228 or 844-732-6228.

Crisis counselors are on-call 24/7 to speak with individuals or members of the community.