BENTON TOWNSHIP — Parenting children often has its challenges.

Parenting children with mental health issues can be even more difficult. 

The Children’s Mobile Intensive Crisis Team was set up in August to help Berrien County residents up to the age of 21 who are in crisis.

“When a parent calls, instead of having (the child) have to go to the hospital to go through the assessment process, we can go to the home and we can do that assessment there,” said Lynn Wilson, therapist with the program, which is run by Riverwood Center in Benton Township through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “If we go and we assess that this child is in immediate need, then we will facilitate their transport to the hospital where they can be kept for safety while a child’s bed is being looked at for them. However, the goal is to keep them in the home ... and help their home environment be conducive so they can stay there.”

Case manager Heidi Hosbein said that since the team was put together, they have received at least one call every day, including weekends. Some calls they were able to handle over the phone. In other cases, she said they went to the home and were able to stabilize the situation without involving police or a trip to the hospital.

“Some people don’t want us to come out (to their home),” she said. “We can meet them in the community. Whatever is most convenient for the family.”

Once they get a call and determine that a home visit is needed, they go in teams of two. In one situation, Wilson said the crisis escalated while they were en route so they had to have the police meet them there to keep everyone safe.

“If a parent calls us and says their child is out of control. ... They’re throwing things. They’re breaking things. We’re going to see what we can do to assess if this is a situation that needs police intervention for safety or if they need to immediately get to the hospital for their own individual safety,” she said.

Hosbein added: “We have had a wide range of calls from kids not wanting to go to school, to suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior.”

The program is available 24/7 at no charge to residents.

“We turn no family away,” Hosbein said. “They do not have to be a client of (Riverwood).”

She said they have visited almost every police department in the county to let them know about the program. They are handing out informational memo pads police can keep in their vehicles and hand out to parents who might want to use the program.

“Our goal is to stabilize the situation so that kids can stay in their home,” Hosbein said. “If we can make a difference for these families to keep their kids out of the legal system as well as the detention center ... that’s our mission. ... We’re trying to not have parents calling the police for situations that can be handled through us.”

She said they have resources they can connect the family with. 

“Until they get their services in place, we want to continue to follow up with them and act as their resource until they get in (to see) a therapist, or whatever they need,” she said.

For more information about the crisis team or to receive help, call 934-0747.

Wilson and Hosbein can also be reached by email at lynn.wilson@riverwoodcenter.org or hmh@riverwoodcenter.org.

“There’s a real need for this,” Wilson said. “Parents are sometimes frustrated. They don’t know where to go and their first line of defense is to call the police. That doesn’t always resolve the problem because they’re equipped to deal with criminal things and this isn’t always a criminal thing.”

Riverwood CEO Ric Compton said there is a lack of child psychiatric services nationwide and this program, which is mandated in Michigan, helps to fill the gap.

“There’s only about 300 beds for inpatient psychiatric services for kids in the whole state,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get in for services. ... That was one of the reasons the program started.”

Compton said children who need one of those beds sometimes end up waiting in emergency rooms for days until one is available.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege