Urgent Crisis Center Now Open in Hartford Offers Specialized Care to Kids in Crisis

The new center at The Village For Families and Children is one of four in Connecticut.

August 2, 2023

This article by Jane Caffrey appeared in NBC Connecticut on August 2, 2023.

There is a new resource for Connecticut kids. An Urgent Crisis Center is opening its doors at The Village For Families and Children in Hartford. It’s one of four centers like this in the state.

The purpose is to divert kids in crisis from the emergency room and connect them to specialized resources.

Thirteen-year-old Malik Oates stood by his mom, as she told state leaders just how much then new Urgent Crisis Center in Hartford will mean to their family.

“Going into a crisis with your child, your already on high alert,” Tenesha Oates said during a press conference Wednesday. “To go to a place where you know that they really want you to come, and it will be a different experience.”

In years past, a child undergoing a crisis would be taken to the emergency room – something Oates experienced with her son.

“Staying almost a whole entire day there, and you know, it just makes me paralyzed when I go there. I can’t really go anywhere,” Oates told NBC Connecticut.

Not only does Oates think the new Urgent Crisis Center will help her avoid missing work as a single mom, but she also foresees Malik developing coping mechanisms there.

“We can not have such a harsh thing, like just getting into the ambulance and going through all that,” Oates said. “It will be just me just picking him up, bringing him… right now this is a familiar place to him… to a familiar place, where he’s able to get help.”

The Village for Families and Children now has 20 beds available. Not only is the ambience warm and inviting, but kids can stay on site for a day and get connected to resources to help them after they leave.

“They can come to a very normalized environment, not judgmental, in which family will be welcomed,” Galo Rodriguez, The Village for Families and Children president and CEO, said. “We will do an assessment, identify exactly what is going on. And in the term of 24 hours, 23 hours plus, we will be able to de-escalate the crisis for the child, for the family.”

Urgent crisis centers like the one in Hartford are becoming a reality after the legislature passed several bills to support children’s mental health, and the state allocated at total of $468 million to behavioral health services.

“We’ve disconnected our physical health from our mental health for almost 50 years and now we have something that says, ‘this is okay.’ Let’s de-stigmatize mental health because mental health is a part of total health,” State Rep. Tammy Exum, D-West Hartford, said.

As part of the budget, there will be four urgent crisis centers across Connecticut, the others located in Waterbury, New Haven and New London.

“Recognizing and normalizing the need for community based non-emergency room care for behavioral health challenges when families are in crisis,” Vannessa Dorantes, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, said.

For Malik, Oates sees the new resources as key to a new future for her teenage son.

“He’s so smart, and very intuitive and empathetic to others,” Oates said. “He’ll start to get more confidence in himself as a young adult, where he’s able to start to manage these things on his own. I feel like it gives him a lot of hope, and security for his future.”

Right now the Urgent Crisis Center at the Village for Families and Children is open Monday through Friday. In about a month, it will be open 24/7.

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