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New service for youth mental health crises

Starting this week, the Fairbanks area has a mobile team of mental health professionals focused on children and families. The mobile unit will respond to kids in mental health crises with immediate counseling and options for further steps.

For nearly two years, now, Fairbanks has had a Mobile Crisis Team to adults in mental health crises. But it is not necessarily a good fit for children and teens. So Timothy Lenda of Alaska Behavioral Health, worked on launching a more intimate service for families.

“So anytime we can divert kids away from hospital, law enforcement or out-of-home placements,” Ledna said.

Ledna is the Team Lead and Mental Health Clinician. He is working with Peer Support Specialist Jaye Palmer.

“Its the two of us on this team,” Palmer said.

Ledna says Alaska has some high risk factors for teenagers.

“There was a 2020 report that said that the number one cause of death for adolescents 15 and over was suicide. Alaska ranks at the top of out-of-home placements for children. In terms of, uh, our population density. We have a rising number of foster children with a decreasing number of foster homes.”

“And so this program, its goal is to minimize the need for out-of-home placements to help minimize the need for hospitalizations and unnecessary law enforcement,” Ledna said. Ledna says he’s using the adult Mobile Crisis Team as an example, in fact, Ledna is also a team member on the Mobile Crisis Team, which is staffed by professionals from Alaska Behavioral Health. But this Mobile Outreach for Children and Families is on a smaller scale. Instead of being dispatched through the 911 emergency center, it will be Ledna or Palmer picking up the phone.

“We do stabilize and offer brief interventions in the home, in the community, in the school, wherever. But then we also do follow up. So it is not just one and done and we, we don't ever talk to you again,” Ledna said.

“When I got my Associates in Human Services, I did my practicum with at-risk youth and I've got a soft spot for our at-risk youth and wanting to make a difference in their lives. And giving them someplace to come and get services, get support, help the families in parenting and support, and connecting them with resources in the in the community. Wraparound services, Really,” Palmer said.

They will respond to a phone call to (907) 371-1359 – and that phone number is on the Alaska Behavioral Health website, and will be on our website, The service is available in the Fairbanks North Star Borough 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm daily.

Alaska Behavioral Health, AKBH, is a non-profit clinical treatment agency in Fairbanks and Anchorage. They have a range of outpatient treatment options, and wrap-around agreements with other social services in the borough.

“Both Jaye and I worked at other agencies. Both her and I actually worked at Fairbanks Native Association, I've worked with I AC, the city, you know, so we're friends with lots of partnering organizations and, and we're happy to make referrals out, if AKBH is not the, you know, the right place for someone,” Ledna said.

Ledna and Palmer say the program could enhance family coping skills, build resiliency and increase overall safety. With this new intervention option, they hope to limit the need higher levels of care, and keep kids with their families as much as possible, preventing unnecessary hospitalization, youth detention, or use of other out of home placement.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.