Albertina Kerr's Crisis Psychiatric Care program supports more than 300 children from across Oregon who enter care in the midst of an emergency mental health crisis. Children remain in Kerr's care for an average of three weeks before returnin to their home community in a stable condition for further community-based care. One child's story
For many years, Walsh had been managing the challenges of social anxiety, OCD, and Tourette’s syndrome. Then, at 12 years old, Walsh threatened suicide, telling his parents that he didn’t want to be around anymore. His parents, Julia and Rick, were also becoming fearful that Walsh could be a danger to his younger brother, Henry. After the suicide threat, Julia and Rick took Walsh to the emergency room where he was then referred to Albertina Kerr’s Crisis Psychiatric Care program.
Initially, Walsh dug in his heels and was fearful of needing and receiving help. He had never been away from home so it was a significant change for him to be in the short-term residential facility. The time in care helped Walsh identify his strengths including drawing and reading. Kerr’s Crisis Psychiatric Care helped Walsh to open up and try new things when he went home.
Walsh’s counselor Ryan was in touch with Julia and Rick often throughout Walsh’s stay to let them know about Walsh’s progress. The routine check-ins from staff were a relief to Julia and Rick. With each note of progress, the family was becoming less concerned for the safety of Henry when Walsh returned.
When Walsh’s stay reached three weeks, a point at which most children are ready to return home, Julia, Rick and Ryan discussed the prospect and decided more time was needed. Rather than move Walsh to long-term residential care, which can keep children away from home for three to six months, the Crisis Psychiatric Care program continued care for longer than most. After 38 days Walsh returned home. He had learned how to problem solve and to think before reacting as well as self-soothing skills. His progress continues with the help of Albertina Kerr’s community-based mental health services. Today, Walsh receives visits for support at his home from Kerr’s skills trainers and counselors. Julia and Rick are continuing their own progress, taking advantage of free Collaborative Problem Solving classes for parents offered by Kerr.
Reflecting on the experience, Julia realized that once Walsh got to Albertina Kerr, she and Rick did not feel like they were helpless anymore. The staff at Kerr taught Julia to accept that Walsh’s struggles were not a reflection against her and Rick or their parenting.
“We have a long road ahead, but he’s definitely in a better spot,” said Julia. “This is a stepping stone. We had to do this to move forward. And Kerr was great along the way.”
*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy.