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Breaking the Cycle of Crisis Care

Making the case for treatment at a higher level of care for seriously ill children, adolescents and families.

In the U.S., suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among children and adolescents ages 10-24, and the 3rd leading cause of death among 12-year-olds.

In Colorado, the rate of teen suicide increased by 58% in 3 years, making it the cause of 1 in 5 adolescent deaths.

Amid this growing youth mental health crisis, there exists a troubling cycle of crisis care:

  • Child presents at ER with severe behavioral health symptoms (suicide attempt, cutting/self-harm, overdose, etc.)
  • Patient is assessed by ER physician, admits to acute inpatient stabilization, either a medical floor or a psychiatric unit (depending on their more prominent symptoms)
  • When patient is deemed stable, they are discharged into outpatient care
  • Patient lacks sufficient support, containment and intervention in outpatient setting (at home with family, who may or may not be supportive), continues to suffer from persistent and underlying psychiatric, medical, psychological and dietary issues
  • Symptoms intensify
  • The patient experiences another crisis episode
  • Patient presents at ER with severe behavioral health symptoms

And so on.

For families touched by serious eating, mood or anxiety disorders, this cycle of crisis care is agonizing. It excludes behavioral health treatment at higher levels of care— 24-hour residential care and day treatment/partial hospital programs—wherein the foundations of recovery take place: intensive therapy, skill building/practice, physical health restoration and monitoring, family involvement and gradual transition back into daily life.

Higher levels of care adequately address psychiatric, medical, psychological, nutritional and social issues contributing to these dangerous crisis episodes. Additionally, these programs provide concurrent treatment for co-occurring medical issues, substance abuse, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and trauma.

“Delivery of therapy, education and skill development is far more efficient in higher levels of care. The same behavior change achieved in just eight weeks of intensive, multidisciplinary treatment might take years to deliver across weekly outpatient appointments. Given the mental health challenges facing our kids today—specifically the startling increase in suicide planning, attempts and deaths—families can’t afford to wait and hope for the best.”- Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, CEDS, Managing Clinical Director Colorado.

Help is available for young patients and families stuck in the cycle of crisis care. ERC and Insight’s Residential and Partial Hospitalization Programs are covered by most insurance plans. Multidisciplinary teams skillfully intervene with medical stabilization, psychiatric management, intensive therapy and skills training. When patients and families return to their outpatient providers, they are engaged, and prepared to continue the recovery journey.