Crisis Teams Go into Action

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

All that Lidi Webster recalls of being attacked two months ago is seeing a clunky white sneaker kicking toward her head after she'd been slammed to the floor in a school cafeteria.

Her attacker went through the school district's discipline process and no longer attends Sheldon High School, according to district spokesman Kelly McIver.

But the image of the sneaker remains etched in Lidi's mind.

"It's hard to not remember it when I dream about it every night," the 16-year-old Sheldon junior says.

Lidi did not see what was coming her way the night after the attack, though. No one did.

A flashback of that horrifying event sent her into a hysterical and debilitating state of fear.

Within hours, though, the Mental Health Crisis Response Program - a new partnership of local nonprofit mental health agencies - had passed another test in its mission to go any time, anywhere in Lane County to resolve a child's crisis before it gets worse.

The program answered 196 crisis calls in its first six months, relying on emergency agencies to tell families about the service. Now it's ready to assume a higher profile, publish its phone number, take more calls for help.

Like the one Lidi's mother, Alice Webster, never thought she would need to make.

Lidi was home, sitting on a couch, her Dalmatian/black Lab Stinker at her side.

"Stinker usually only barks when somebody is coming to the door," Lidi says.

Without warning, Stinker exploded into furious barking. Lidi launched into deep emotional trauma.

She ran into her bedroom, locked the door, drew herself up in a tight ball on the bed and cried inconsolably in fear her assailant was trying to get inside.

"I was petrified. She was reliving the incident," recalls her mother, a retired special education teacher. In spite of 18 years experience dealing with children who sometimes act out of control, Webster could not get through to her daughter.

She phoned the police and medics, who referred her to the Crisis Response Program.

The new program is an indirect result of budget cutting that stripped Lane County of all state funding for crisis intervention and indigent mental health services in 2004, says Al Levine, the county's mental health program manager.

Early last year, the state unexpectedly restored $200,000 in mental health funding to the county. Lane Care, the mental health side of the Oregon Health Plan, kicked in a like amount to set up the countywide crisis program to meet a need that had never been addressed, Levine says.

In the past, young people in crisis might have ended up in the emergency room or juvenile detention when they became violent, suicidal, defiant and out of control. Families suffered through the crisis and, at best, got an appointment to get help a few days later.

The idea behind the new program is to bring services immediately to families in crisis, without cost, to alleviate the emotional toll and public expense that comes with delayed treatment, Levine says.

Three local nonprofit providers - Looking Glass Youth & Family Services, The Child Center and SCAR/Jasper Mountain - formed a coalition to deliver the service. …