Add To Favorites

Catholic Family Charities' Youth Mobile Crisis Intervention: a beacon of hope for youth mental health

The Wenatchee World - 3/1/2024

Feb. 29—WENATCHEE — To reach youth with behavioral health needs before a crisis point, Catholic Family Charities began a program called the Youth Mobile Crisis Intervention (YMCI).

This program allows rapid response by teams of two, a case manager and a certified peer. "A successful case is ensuring that families are healthy and youth are safe, we've diverted from 911 or ER (emergency room) drop off," said Steve Hightower, Catholic Family Charities crisis services manager.

YMCI helps fill a longstanding gap in services in the community when the wait time for behavioral health treatment for unenrolled people in need could be six months, Hightower said. YMCI can follow up with clients for 7-14 days or longer, up to eight weeks.

Since "hospitals, especially during the pandemic, (are) seeing kiddos in emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, a seeming backlog," Hightower said, the goal of intakes is to provide quicker access to care.

Approximately 70 youths under 20 years old are being assisted by the YMCI. To stay accessible, Hightower and program manager Jesus Mendoza promote it in the community to the schools, medical and mental health facilities and the county juvenile court systems.

Sometimes meeting families in their homes, the YMCI teams provide support by "building rapport and relationship, ensuring the youth can keep themself safe, a listening ear to vent to, developing coping skills, teaching parents how to recognize and manage certain behaviors," Hightower said.

The YMCI is up from two staff when it started nine months ago to a team of six people with positions for a fourth team and a budget for a fifth team. Maria Thew is one case manager, and Elijah Rowley is her certified peer counselor teammate.

Thew has a bachelor's degree from Washington State University with a major in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. She is currently in a master's program for social work at the University of Denver.

Rowley has bachelor's degrees in English and economics and a master's (from where) in writing. As well as working at shelters and receiving work training, he is a peer counselor because the school of hard knocks gave him a certain amount of personal experience to relate to the youth and give tips and tricks, he said.

"There's always hope for a kid to have a wonderful experience in the future. Life is hard, but it's never too late," Rowley said.

Thew said studies have shown the younger we can intervene with the combination of trauma, mental health and substance abuse, the better.

Youth with behavioral health problems may need different things, maybe medication or therapy and help getting resources together, said Rowley. "They need to feel they are being heard and having a say in their own life. It's person centered," he said.

"Especially with depressed kids, they have a lot of love for other people, can tell good things about others, and care for others and animals; they just can't give it to themselves. If you love others or anything a lot, you are deserving of love," Rowley said.

The importance of connecting parents to services or housing resources depends on need, as oftentimes teams see generational stuff going on, Thew said. The right resources can improve an outlook for the future, she said.

Catholic Family Charities helps youth in other ways with a LifeSet six- to nine-month program to help young adults transition from systems of care to independent living, according to the website Another of their housing programs assists ages 18-25.

Since "kids hide mental health issues in fear of being in trouble," Rowley said, if they are struggling with something, it helps to have a "safe outsider."

The Youth Mobile Crisis Intervention teams are "connecting them and coming up with a strategy and helping them become self empowered on their journey," Thew said.


(c)2024 The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.)

Visit The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.