A Look Inside Hartford’s Urgent Crisis Center for Children

January 4, 2024

This article and video by Sam Smink appeared on WSFB on January, 2024.

Stress or mental health problems in particular never take a holiday.

No one knows that better than the staff inside Hartford’s Urgent Crisis Center for Children.

Five months after they opened their doors, they have been busy.

Located at the Village for Families and Children campus, the center acts just like an urgent care, but for mental health emergencies.

“We have to be prepared for every single person who walks through those doors depending what level of crisis they’re in,” said Village vice president Amy Samela.

Since they opened in July, 197 children have walked through the doors and received services, from Hartford and beyond.

Samela said staff is ready to help anyone 18 and under in Connecticut.

“The environment is all intentional, whether it be the colors, to be really bright and kid friendly and bean bag chairs,” said Samela. “There’s no glass so something is covered in polycarbonate. Everything we did is intentional from a safety perspective. We don’t know who’s coming and we don’t know what need they’re going to experience.”

Rooms are separated by age and clinical need.

Samela said there’s something for everyone.

“This is one of our three sensory rooms. For example, when you walk in here we obviously have a higher ceiling so it gives this feel of an open space,” said Samela. “So our lights are dimmers. We have this padding on the walls. It’s intentional, not to freak anybody out or scare anybody that there’s padding on the walls. Instead, it really serves two purposes. One, it filters the noise, and it is a safe opportunity if there is a kid with some outward behaviors.”

“This is one of the most utilized therapeutic rockers that we have. It’s phenomenal. It’s a little deceiving. But we come in here, you sink a little bit, you become a cocoon. And then once you’re in it, we put this weighted blanket on you and it literally feels so grounding physically and ultimately emotionally,” Samela added.

The goal is de-escalate a crisis and connect families to services in under 24 hours. But Samela said the center stays in touch until those services actually begin, so you never feel alone.

“Crisis de-escalation is just a piece of the work we do here,” Samela said.

The main entrance for the Village is off of Albany Avenue. You’ll go through the main entrance and follow the signs down to the Urgent Crisis Center.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 11 PM.

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