How Behavioral Health Services Surround Young People with Care

Last updated: November 8, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. PT

Originally published: November 3, 2023, at 10:39 a.m. PT

young people smiling

In King County, the Y Social Impact Center's Behavioral Health Team plays a vital role in surrounding young people with the care they need. Comprised of licensed therapists and other skilled team members, they offer strength-based, trauma-informed approaches to help young people and families acquire the skills to navigate life's challenges. Beyond individual counseling, our Y Social Impact Center provides a fully licensed Substance Use Disorder program, serving individuals of all ages with substance use assessments, outpatient services, and referrals. Additionally, our Children's Crisis Outreach Response System (CCORS) is there for youth, young adults, and families 24/7, offering immediate in-person support and access to long-term services, ultimately promoting stability and preventing future crises. What does surrounding youth with care look like? (All young people's names have been changed to protect their privacy).

Understanding the Crucial Role of Behavioral Health Services 

A parent, who was connected to the Social Impact Center through the King County Crisis Line, shared their heartfelt experience: "Since my daughter was 18 months old, we have been fortunate to have many talented and compassionate professionals helping provide therapy, teaching, and care. Once every few years, one stands out above the rest, and most recently, this was our therapist at the Y Social Impact Center. Although the CCORS program was, by nature, a short-term intervention, our therapist's observational skills and her insight into my daughter's personality, abilities, and motivations were unparalleled. She selected activities for learning and connection, used her knowledge and intuition, and provided suggestions and paths forward that were new, logical, caring, and effective. We are grateful for her contribution to our family, and wanted to let you know that we saw and benefitted from this gifted professional." - Parent of youth in CCORS 

Fostering Trust and Compassionate Mental Healthcare 

Therapy also made a big difference in Sarah’s life. Sarah had never engaged in behavioral health services. Initially hesitant and resistant, Sarah was a tough cookie to crack. Her therapist persisted and exemplified what it means to meet a youth where they are at. Over time, Sarah transformed from dreading her sessions to considering her therapist a trusted adult she could confide in. The pivotal moment was when she simply sat with her, allowing her to cry when she didn't want to talk. This act of compassion helped Sarah understand her inner struggles, ultimately setting her on a path to formal outpatient care. 

Proving Mental Health Education and Resources for Parents 

Sometimes, the help we provide involves working closely with parents to establish good parenting skills. In one instance, A parent reached out through the King County Crisis Line to work with their 15-year-old son, John. At one point, their relationship was tumultuous. John's behaviors were seemingly out of control, and his parents felt they had no choice but to take extreme measures, such as removing John's bedroom door and even sleeping outside his room.   

When the case manager first met with John's family, John was frustrated and demonstrated inappropriate behavior to staff and his parents. Over time, John transformed from that initially frustrated, disinterested kid. Although his parents were initially hesitant, the case manager worked with them two times per week. Through intense teamwork and negotiation, they worked with his family to create a contract that they hoped would alter John's behavior for the better. John's mother tried the contract out with mixed results. John didn't feel like he needed to do the work, nor did he feel he needed help. The case manager took a step back. They wanted John to have a stake in his own success and explained that the contract could benefit him. They started by encouraging John to set his reward for upholding the contract. Three weeks – that's what they asked of John. They wanted him to try for at least that amount of time before giving up. With the prospect of defining his own success, John agreed, and before he knew it, things started changing. He started showing responsibility. John went home after school. He started doing his schoolwork and arguing less with his parents. His grades began to improve, and his parents provided a little more freedom. The family went from being worn out to feeling whole, leading to an overall positive transformation for them all. 

Family Crisis Support 

Other times surrounding youth with care means advocating for families to access the resources they need while in crisis. Our Y Social Impact Center staff first met with Cathy at her home for an involuntary treatment act assessment for her child Kevin. It was a family crisis that no one wants to go through. And on top of the stress they were already facing, Cathy shared that she had received an eviction notice. She shared paperwork from the King County Housing Authority (KCHA), which stated the family was on notice for a 30-day eviction due to Kevin's aggressive behaviors on the property. It was a lot to handle so they got to work right away. The Y staff contacted the KCHA Case Manager and educated them about the Children's Crisis Outreach Response System and our work to provide the family with supportive services, which included helping them maintain their housing.  

Their goal was to advocate for the family in hopes of eliminating the 30-day notice. Understandably, KCHA's major concern was the safety of the other residents in the community, but they were willing to negotiate an eviction diversion plan. Thankfully, an agreement was made as long as Cathy provided proof of Kevin's current inpatient status and notified them when he would be discharged. Before returning to the property, Kevin, Cathy, and the Y staff were required to meet in person to create a housing safety plan. Thankfully the KCHA had confidence that Cathy's family had the support they needed. And Cathy could focus on Kevin's care and maintain their housing during this stressful time.  

Providing Pathways to Successful and Accurate Diagnosis 

Sometimes it means playing a small but critical role and working well with other providers and caregivers to ensure proper care.

Bianca had severe and dangerous self-harming tendencies and an eating disorder, for which she was receiving specialized outpatient care and monitoring. She had a clinical diagnosis already and was receiving a particular kind of therapy for treating it. 

The Y staff wasn't so sure it was truly addressing all of Bianca's needs. She worked with Bianca's case manager to troubleshoot any existing problems with her care team. There were other severe symptoms that Bianca was displaying and sharing. It got to a point where she suspected Bianca's diagnosis might not be fully accurate. She had developed a good relationship with Bianca's family and was able to share her concerns. Initially, they didn't want to entertain seeking other forms of counseling. They appreciated her concerns but felt her diagnosis was correct.  

They kept working together. After a while, the Y staff heard Bianca express some experiences that coincided with autism. The thought aligned for her as she remembered that Bianca was part of a demographic that is historically underdiagnosed in childhood. She had hoped to find a way to re-broach the topic; however, the short-term crisis enrollment was soon over, and she never got the opportunity. 

About two months later, the T staff got a text from them out of the blue, thanking her. Bianca had officially been diagnosed with autism. The Y staff was the first person ever to suggest it as a possibility. It's clear that autism was compounding a lot of the issues and barriers Bianca was experiencing. Her team of supporters holds a lot of hope that being officially diagnosed with autism will bring fresh resources, hope, and a kinder, more accurate self-perspective to Bianca's journey. 

Providing Youth with Holistic Behavioral Healthcare 

Behavioral Health can come in many forms to meet the many needs of kids and families in our community. Whether it is therapy, crisis intervention or advocating for families, it is a critical part of surrounding kids with care.