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19 February, 2024.

Highlighting the work of our Mobile Crisis Unit

The Family Counseling Center is highlighting the work of its Mobile Crisis Unit, a service provided to Fulton County children are expressing moments of extreme crisis – from suicidal thoughts to aggressive behavior that puts either the child or others at risk. In 2023, the Unit worked with 159 children. From September 2023 to February 2024, the Unit has worked with over 65. 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 for transportation to the services they need.

“In the moment, I’m there as a set of outside eyes, someone who is a little removed from the crisis and can talk to the child, the parents, school staff, and help everyone. I work directly with the child by just listening, asking questions, and working with them to understand why they are at this point,” said Vazquez. “I’m really proud of the level of respect we give the kids.”

Vazquez also works with the families to connect the children with resources. “So many people, the parents and the schools, don’t necessarily realize what we offer at The Family Counseling Center. For many of the families, this is the first time they have ever had to access behavioral or mental health services. It’s great to be able to help everyone in the moment, but also know that they will get the help they need after the crisis has been overcome.”

Overall, Vazquez notes that the greatest number of children he is seeing are in elementary school. “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.”

In addition, Vazquez offers post-crisis check-ins with older 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.” These follow-ups average 8 to 10 students per week. The follow-up allows to assess the overall wellbeing of the child and greatly reduces the rate of a second crisis at school.

“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. “