Since Amie Havner started working as the Yellowstone Youth Crisis Network coordinator last year, she’s responded to almost 400 emails and phone calls.
She's had face-to-face meetings with about 80 families, many of which result in follow-up meetings.
She knows there’s always more work to do.
Havner’s position was created last year to connect kids struggling with mental health issues to resources that can help them before they end up in the emergency room. Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and providing mental health support for children has been the focus of several recent initiatives.
“The majority of the kids that I’ve worked with have remained in the community, with a variety of community supports,” she said. A small number have ended up in residential treatment or acute care facilities.
Havner gets calls asking for help on anything from a family looking for a medical specialist to students on the verge of suicide. Often, families don't know where to turn, she said.
She’s a bridge between schools, services and families. Most of the referrals have come from schools, some from Billings Clinic and some from families. A significant proportion are young students.
Most children Havner works with are between the ages of 12 and 14 — 37 percent of them; ages 15 and up account for 28 percent; ages 9 to 11 account for 22 percent; ages 6 to 8 account for 11 percent; and ages 4 and younger account for 3 percent.
They come from across Yellowstone County, from urban Billings to Acton.
Most of the students are referred to some sort of outpatient therapy. Many have experienced some sort of trauma in their past, and several families have multiple children who are referred to therapy.
“There is an increase in awareness,” she said.
The crisis network is working to solidify its footprint across the country; they recently held an educational conference in Laurel.
The grant that funds Havner’s position runs out in June. She said the crisis network is exploring future funding options, and she wants to keep the position independently funded. She’s not tied to School District 2 or a health care provider.
“I work with the schools, but I’m not ‘the school,’” she said.
The Yellowstone Youth Crisis Network hotline phone number is 200-0559.