Youth Crisis Diversion (YCD)

In November 2013, through the Children’s Mental Health Bureau (CMHB), the Center for Mental Health received grant funding to build Youth Crisis Diversion community resources for families with children in crisis after completing needs assessment identifying significant needs for youth crisis services.  The goal of the grant was to 1) develop a coalition within the Great Falls community and 2) to offer service options for families with children whom have mental health issues with efforts for keeping them in their home community.  Psychiatric residential inpatient treatment facilities can be traumatic and expensive.  Law enforcement and the emergency room often scramble to find placement for these kids.  Our goal was to open avenues of already available service options within the community to support families during times of crisis.  

Once determined that the youth is medically stable, not at risk of harm and the family is willing to engage in change, a Youth Crisis Diversion case manager comes out to the family’s home to engage with the family on developing the plan of care.   Whenever possible, utilization of natural family supports is chosen; however, if this is not available, placement facilities in the Great Falls community are engaged, while simultaneously working on stabilizing the home for the youth and their family.  The YCD case managers support the family in making the right service connections to not only avert crisis but build a stable life moving forward.

This grant also focused on building peer natural supports for the families who are going through the crisis.  Research shows that it’s helpful to problem solve or have the support of others whom have gone down a similar path.  With the rise of autism spectrum disorders and the early identification of other mental health disorders, it is critical to the experience and outcome for the child and family with the mental health disorder to gain early intervention.  Ultimately strong preventative services in our community means a healthier community in the long run and less expense in adult systems.  Linking families to other families who have learned what is working and how to educate others on their child’s unique issues has been proven to show success. 

During the grant from January 1, 2014-September 30, 2014, we had seven youth crisis diversion case managers working with our licensed clinician 24 hours a day to assist families, law enforcement, child protection specialists and emergency room staff with developing an immediate plan of action and possibly temporary shelter for a youth while the family develops a plan of care to best meet the youth’s needs and keep them in their home community if possible.  Our current Youth Crisis Diversion grant ended September 30, 2014.  Throughout the course of the 10 month period, the Youth Crisis Diversion team served 108 youth and families throughout the city of Great Falls.  This is an incredible success.  The community of Great Falls, voiced by the Youth Crisis Diversion Coalition, is made up of 23 agency representatives whom met to provide support and quality assurance to the project on a quarterly basis. 

When the Center for Mental Health learned the funding would not continue into the next year due to federal funding across the state, we applied for another grant through the Montana Mental Health Trust (MMHT) to keep the momentum moving forward serving the youth and families of Great Falls.  We received word a couple weeks ago from Judge David G. Rice, Trust Director, that “while the application was appealing, the request for funds without the promise of additional monies in the next year caused a denial by the board.”  He did also state that if we can show a firm commitment from the major community partners in Great Falls for a contribution of funds and a plan for other local support, there may be reconsideration.

The Center for Mental Health is currently asking the community of Great Falls for their support in the mission to provide crisis services to the youth and families of Great Falls.  Whether it is individuals, families, agencies, schools, businesses, or coalitions we are reaching out for monetary donations to help secure the sustainability of Youth Crisis Diversion project. 

Please contact Dusti Zimmer, LCSW, ACSW, Assistant Director of Family & Youth Services, at the Center for Mental Health with questions in regard to this project at 406-761-2100.

Dusti Zimmer LCSW, ACSW

Assistant Director of Family & Youth Services


Our Mission

“The Center for Mental Health partners with people and communities to produce exceptional, integrated mental health and substance abuse services.”



Great Falls Regional Office
915 1st Ave South
P.O Box 3089
Great Falls, MT 59403


BoulderChinookChoteauConradCut Bank Great Falls HavreHelenaShelbyTownsend