“Listen to youth!”

Special Youth Edition
David Covington

Dear Community of Hope,

“Listen to youth! And, bring them to the table. Let them make a difference. You’d be surprised.” These inspirational words from Hayley Winterberg characterized the spirit of the first 988 Crisis Jam of 2023, a special youth edition with a featured presentation by SAMHSA on the National Guidelines for Child and Youth Behavioral Health Crisis Care.

This learning community drew the second highest participation ever with 410 leaders excited to hear from SAMHSA’s Dr. Anita Everett and Dr. Billina Shaw. Too often, youth experience behavioral health models intended for adults, largely unchanged but simply branded “Youth Edition”, without the thought and tailoring required to reflect the unique experiences of youth. Youth aren’t simply micro-adults. In this Crisis Jam, we saw this concept realized with a different approach including a unique emphasis on the needs of youth; we heard an extremely thoughtful review of the SAMHSA document’s foundational concept of “Safe Place to Be.”

We also shared the full version of the Ad Council “Whatever Gets You Talking” video that was created in partnership with AFSP and the Jed Foundation. Both the Ad Council video and SAMHSA guidelines were amazing examples of the Crisis Jam “Challenge,” getting inside the perspective of the individual in crisis so that care “feels like care.”

If you didn’t join us for this inspiring 2023 kickoff, please watch, like and subscribe on YouTube (January 4 Special Edition Crisis Jam). And, you can always follow the SAMHSA and NASMHPD Crisis Jam Learning Community at Talk.CrisisNow.com/LearningCommunity.

David W. Covington, LPC, MBA
CEO & President, RI International

Listen to Youth

Today, Hayley Winterberg is the Executive Director of the Arizona Peer and Family Academy. But, in 2008, she was 15 years old and led MY LIFE, a youth group made up of teens and young adults with an experience of mental illness, substance use and/or foster care. “Your voice matters and you can make a difference,” Hayley encouraged listeners in a radio interview at the time. “The group is completely ran by us. We run our meetings. We run our events… It’s a way for us to take control and for us to get involved and make a difference in our communities.”

Click Here to View and read the interview at Talk.CrisisNow.com

National Guidelines for Child and Youth

SAMHSA Assistant Secretary Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon introduces the Guidelines, “All youth and families should have access to a robust crisis response system that has developmentally appropriate policies, staffing, and resources in place to respond to their needs equitably and effectively….  Ultimately, SAMHSA envisions 988 as part of a robust crisis response system that is as widely recognized and understood as 911.”

Download Document Here

A Safe Place to Be: Crisis Stabilization and More

NASMHPD has produced more than 60 crisis research papers since 2017 in the inaugural “Beyond Beds” series. In this companion document to the Youth National Guidelines, NASMHPD focuses on the continuum of crisis care beyond 988 that is instrumental in averting unnecessary ED visits in which youth are likely to be “boarded” – the practice of caring for people, including youth, in the ED for a prolonged length of stay after a determination that the person needs inpatient care but until an inpatient bed becomes available (which can take hours, weeks or more than a month at times).

Download Document Here

Strong Talk Guest Preston Mitchum

With Vic Armstrong on PTO, Crisis Jam was joined by The Trevor Project’s Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs, Preston Mitchum. Author of the blog Black Queerness is Magic, Preston reminded us youth were blamed for the spread of the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, and encouraged us with the transformative opportunity of 988 to tackle discrimination and stigma.
January 4 Special Edition Crisis Jam (begins at minute 58)

Crisis of Student Mental Health

The Washington Post in December addressed the challenge of youth mental health nationwide, but also focused on the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona, and in particular on Riana Alexander, an honor student who became depressed “after the isolation of remote learning, [and] then the overload of a full-on return to school.” After a number of suicides in local schools, she founded Arizona Students for Mental Health.

Read the Article Here

I Was Desperate for a Solution

Misha Kessler grew up gay and closeted in Ohio, and he didn’t feel safe to come out. Believing he wasn’t worthy wore on him. In college, he thought he found his solution, an escape from the pain, when he crawled out a windowsill of his dorm room, six stories above the ground, and willed himself to jump. His subsequent effort to seek help resulted in a forced withdrawal and more isolation than before.  Episode 8 will be released in January – stay tuned!

Moving America’s Soul on Suicide (MASoSfilm.com)

Crisis Trivia Hotseat (Special Youth Edition)

Chelsea Booth is a linguistic anthropologist and SAMHSA policy advisor in the 988 Crisis Coordinating Office. She was up first during our special youth edition Crisis Jam tackling the differences in online communication between boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z. Next up, my 15 year old son William who provided a video clue in our Ad Council trivia question back in October. Will provided us a first hand view of Gen X communication. I quipped “this was a terrible idea!”

January 4 Special Edition Crisis Jam (begins at minute 40)

BHL’s Statewide Crisis Software Platform

In 2006, I led the Behavioral Health Link team that designed the first statewide crisis software system that would set the “care traffic control” standard, with GPS-enabled mobile crisis dispatch, electronic bed inventory, intensive service tracking and more. It was built on a Windows.NET app with SQL backend and installed on individual computers.

In 2021, Henry Wengier and team started afresh to catapult Virginia forward to the SAAS Enterprise Product which would shape Crisis Now systems in the future. Hosted in a Microsoft Azure data center, with a back end SQL database and a front end Angular and middle layer API .NET using C sharp, they exponentially enhanced the security coding with a browser based application. But, what’s more, Dr. Chuck Browning and Dr. John Draper are driving a clinical model aligning with 988 and the SAMHSA National Guidelines for BH Crisis Care. Contact Deepa Avula to learn more.


Hope. Ministry. Family. Equity. Peer Power. Fusion. My storytelling colleagues are some of the field’s best communicators in Tonja Myles, Shannon Jaccard, Victor Armstrong, Lisa St. George and “Dr. Chuck” Browning. Their work is inspiring people all over the world to take their mental health into their own hands and create change in communities.

Visit davidwcovington.com and click Storytellers to learn more.

u matter

16 year old Reina Chiang felt alone before COVID-19, feeling abandoned by a father in China and a mother in a demanding job. But seemingly insurmountable stressors in 2020 led to a slow boil of suicidal thoughts and crisis. She’s now focused on the connections that helped her and how she might bring such care to others. And, her mother, Kana Enomoto, who co-leads the McKinsey Health Institute and served as an acting administrator at SAMHSA, has a fire in her soul for a better crisis care system after several multi-day stays in windowless hospital Emergency department rooms.

Moving America’s Soul on Suicide (MASoSfilm.com)

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RI International 30 Years

RI International is a d/b/a for Recovery Innovations, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Learn more at riinternational.com.

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