Mobile Crisis Unit delivers free emergency mental health services

 OKEECHOBEE — When a 10-year-old boy whose father recently passed away said he wanted to kill himself, his mother called the New Horizons Mobile Crisis Unit for immediate help.

At first, the boy refused to discuss his feelings with the licensed mental health counselor. But after hours of gentle encouragement, he sat down on the living room couch and began to talk.

“The reason I want to die is that’s the only way I’ll see my father again,” he said. Then, the flood gates opened and tears of grief flowed freely. Now, the boy is in therapy.

New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee, a 501c3 non-profit agency, offers the only mobile mental health service in the four-county area. The mobile unit provides opportunities to de-escalate a crisis situation at any location, day or night, restore a person’s functioning to pre-crisis levels, and help people develop individualized strategies going forward.

The service is available for children and adults 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is absolutely free.

What can trigger a mental health crisis? Often it’s something beyond an individual’s control: the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, even a poor score on a test or a chronic situation that is finally just too much to handle.

People respond differently to difficult circumstances, largely influenced by their unique body chemistry and lifetime of past experiences.

While the majority of requests for services originate from hospitals, schools and law enforcement officials, anyone concerned about the well being of another can call 772-468-3909 for mobile crisis intervention.

“We have a trained team that can send a master’s degree level mental health specialist to assess the individual in crisis, evaluate the situation and make sure everyone involved is safe,” said New Horizons Chief Clinical Officer Deb Dreher.

In addition, mobile crisis counselors help develop crisis safety plans to address risks and behaviors associated with mental health and substance abuse issues. They also coordinate follow-up and ongoing treatment with other community-based programs.

“It’s a valuable resource,” said Patti Corey-Souza, associate professor at Indian River State College, where she is the Health and Wellness Coordinator. “It’s really helped a number of our students who don’t have access to mental health care.”

Ms. Corey-Souza explained that many students register for college, but realize very quickly that the challenges they face are rooted within themselves.

“Looking at it from the perspective of academic success, how can our students do well if they have underlying issues,” she said.

Anne Lotierzo, LMHC, is Screening and Mobile Crisis Unit Program Manager.

New Horizons is the most comprehensive mental health agency in the region, serving 11,000 children and adults annually at eight facilities in Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie and Okeechobee Counties.

Based in Fort Pierce, the organization offers a wide range of outpatient and inpatient mental health and substance abuse services, including drop-in emergency screening, adult crisis stabilization, children’s crisis stabilization, drug and alcohol detox, and a 28-day drug and alcohol treatment program.

To learn more about New Horizons, visit www.nhtcinc.org or call 772-672-8333. For the Mobile Crisis Unit, call 772-468-3909.

New Horizons staff includes Chief Clinical Officer Deb Dreher, RN, DPN, and Andrea Gates, LCSW, Division Director of Crisis Stabilization.

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