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16 February, 2023.

The Family Counseling Center’s Mobile Crisis Unit Helps Area Youth

The Family Counseling Center is highlighting the work of its Mobile Crisis Unit, a service provided to Fulton County schools when children are expressing moments of extreme crisis – from suicidal thoughts to aggressive behavior that puts either the child or others at risk.

In 2021, the Unit worked with 80 children. From September 2022 to January 2023, the Unit has worked with over 50. This continues a trend seen nationally as children learn to adjust to the school environment after the pandemic.

Jamal Vazquez, the agency’s Mobile Crisis Counselor, works with students in severe crisis on a daily basis, partnering with them to de-escalate the situation. Vazquez assesses the youth’s emotional state and, if possible, works with the student to create a plan for safety in order to get them back to their regular routine and on with their school day. In cases that can’t be de-escalated, Vazquez works to get the student into a safe mental space in order for transportation to the services they need.

Today, Vazquez also offers a post-crisis check-in with students. “I find out how the child is doing, if there have been any changes, things like that,” said Vazquez. “I go over grounding techniques and coping skills during the crisis and when I do my follow-up, we discuss if they have applied any of those techniques when they were feeling in crisis or angry to find out what worked and what didn’t.”

Vazquez and others have need an increase in crisis cases with children as young as four or five years old. “We are seeing the youngest kids the most,” Vazquez notes. “They are trying to understand their emotions and don’t know how to process or express what is going on. I find that sensory items work the best to calm and comfort the youngest kids.”

Vazquez works hard to approach the youth he deals with as people and not kids. “My role goes deeper than making sure that the child is safe. If a child is in crisis, they need someone to talk to them like a person and not a kid. To listen as an outsider and validate what is important to them. We talk and help to put perspective on the situation – figuring out how they can calm down and what to do in a similar situation in order to stay out of a crisis.”

“We are exceedingly impressed by the experience and quality of care Jamal has shown in his role as Mobile Crisis Counselor,” said Michael L. Countryman, Executive Director of The Family Counseling Center. “Fulton County schools continue to see an increase in crisis behaviors and our Mobile Crisis Unit is a vital service – helping the children and their families. Jamal works closely with our Family and Youth Peer Advocates, our Clinic team, school administrators and others in order to establish a coordinated approach to care that helps inform each situation, putting the child’s safety and mental health first.