·Henry, a 5-year-old who has already lived in three foster homes, has become so aggressive in school that he is about to be suspended from kindergarten.
Single mom Nan has been clean and sober for six months but is overwhelmed by the prospect of returning to work while also working on her recovery, running a household and taking care of her two young children.
Roger is 21 and a hard worker but has already lost several good jobs because his angry outbursts make it difficult to interact in a healthy way with authority figures.
Every day, North Dakotans with mental-health challenges face daily stressors like these – often without guidance or support. They may not know what kind of help is available or how to ask for it. They might not believe treatment could help in their situation, may live too far away from a mental-health provider or aren’t able to afford treatment. Instead, they struggle alone. And much too often, their situation worsens until they reach a crisis point, such as school expulsion, job loss, a family break-up, addiction relapse, contact with law enforcement or a severe mental health crisis that results in a hospital stay.
A new community-based service launched by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota this month is opening the door to more people across the state getting help when and where they need it. The initial phase of the program will serve people in Bismarck, Minot and Fargo areas, with plans to expand to meet demand.
Imagine Thriving Skills Coaching will connect behavioral-health coaches with children and adults in these areas who need help developing skills that support successful daily living. The specially trained coaches will teach and model skills that promote mental well-being, including a range of coping skills, emotional regulation, self-calming techniques, socially appropriate behavior, budget-management, job-interview skills, personal care routines and respect for other’s boundaries.
The work will happen wherever it is most needed – at home, in school, or out in the community, and is available to people who have a mental-health diagnosis that affects their functioning.
The Skills program represents an expansion of the Imagine Thriving initiative. Imagine Thriving will continue the work it has been known for since 2012 – working with kids and young adults to build mental-health literacy and create opportunities for peer mentorship. As of August 2019, LSSND has added the community behavioral health service of Skills Coaching to the existing Imagine Thriving initiatives.
“The addition of Skills Coaching to Imagine Thriving is a way we can build on the student-wellness facilitator concept first piloted by Imagine Thriving in Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead, beginning in 2014,” said Jessica Thomasson, CEO of LSSND. “Connecting kids and their families to a practical skills-development resource guided by mental health professionals can make a huge difference in how they are able to navigate challenges.”
“This can be a game-changer for kids and families,” says LSSND Clinical Director Sara Stallman. “It’s that bridge to helping people heal and maintain vs. needing to be in full-blown crisis mode to get help.”
While broad use of community-based skills services is a relatively new approach in North Dakota, ample evidence of its effectiveness has been demonstrated in other states. “There are more and more conversations going on around how we can increase the availability of home and community-based services for both children and adults in North Dakota, which has opened the door to new ways of thinking,” Thomasson noted. “Our state policymakers are really committed to exploring new opportunities for serving people’s needs. So are we.”
Stallman notes that LSSND currently has staff trained and ready to serve children and adults in the Bismarck, Minot and Fargo areas and plans to expand its infrastructure across the state to meet demand.
Under this preventative, personalized approach, the goal is to save families, communities and individuals from the expense and trauma of crisis-point interventions, such as extended hospitalization, addiction relapse, incarceration or suicide.
With a behavioral health “coach” close by to help them navigate challenging situations, they can practice healthier behaviors, build confidence as they experience successes, and cultivate newfound coping skills and resilience.
They really can Imagine Thriving.
For more information on Imagine Thriving Skills Coaching, visit www.imaginethriving.org/blog