Excelsior sees increase in need for mental health help for kids, starts pilot program for homeless youth

SPOKANE, Wash. – The longer the pandemic goes on, the need for mental health help and housing keeps growing.

Time and time again the phrase “Kids are the future” comes up.

They are the future.

But, it’s hard for some of those kids to make it there when they’re struggling with mental health issues, or don’t have a home.

“We have to be able to take care of our children, it does take a village,” said Kitara Johnson, the chief diversity officer for Excelsior.

That village of people can be found at Excelsior.

The organization helps kids with behavioral health and substance abuse. It also helps kids ages 16 to 21, a transitional age group, and kids who are homeless or on the brink of homelessness develop skills to become a stable adult.

Finding those resources to help them has been a little bit harder during the pandemic.

“I think it’s been a challenge as it has been for any of us to kind of offer that person-centered care, while having limited community access. But, they’ve been real champs about it,” said Amanda Ramshaw, the transitional age youth program coordinator.

The organization says it’s expanded some services during the pandemic. Staff are delivering food and sanitation supplies to families in outpatient programs.

Excelsior says also it’s seen an increase in need for mental health help. The inpatient services saw a slight increase. The need for outpatient services spiked 73 percent from March to July this year compared to last year.

“One thing we’re really focused on is that trauma-informed care and teaching them self care and coping skills,” Ramshaw said. “So, we’ve just been working with them side by side, asking them what would be helpful for them and not assuming that we know.”

Excelsior received $70,000 through a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Office of Homeless Youth. It used that money to create a pilot program to help 16 or 17 year old’s have a home at the organization, along with being given more services to help them in the future. That home, however, will only be able to help one person.

“If you can save one person, if you can assist one person, I think you can change the spectrum of the life for their generations to come,” Johnson said.

That building with the one room also has services to help other kids grow, along with an outdoor sports court.

Johnson said the grant wasn’t enough to be able to help house a large group of kids, but they’re doing what they can with other services.

“Treating each child as an individual, each young person as an individual, not as a one size fits all method,” she said of helping the kids. “We are here as long as a young person needs us to be able to say ‘I’m ready to go out and face the world.'”

To learn more about all the services Excelsior offers, or to reach out for help with them, click here.

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