Equilibrium (EQ) Youth ACT Services: Helping Young Adults Succeed
“We wish the service would’ve been around sooner.” Kristin Sierra, team leader for our Equilibrium (EQ) Youth ACT Services, hears these words so often from the families that EQ serves, they echo in her mind.
Guild launched EQ Services in 2014 to meet a community need: bridge the gap between mental health services for kids and adults. “I was super excited about working on a team dedicated to youth,” Kristin recalls. “I’ve always wanted to work with the younger generation and with the family as a unit.”
Equipped with 8 years of experience on an adult Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, in which she often worked with younger adults, Kristin helped to develop the team into what it is today: 9 multi-disciplinary staff, including psychiatry, nursing, individual and family outreach therapy, an alcohol and drug counselor, education specialist, and a peer support specialist, serving young people from 16 to 20-years-old.
The team intervenes in the early stages of mental illness with a goal of reducing the impact of symptoms to help youth transition successfully into adulthood.
“First, we just go in and introduce ourselves to the young adult and their family to build trust,” Kristin describes. “For a lot of them, their perspective is, ‘this is just another provider’, and it’s a scary situation.” We engage young people by asking what their goals are.” It’s a question, she says, many haven’t been asked before.
From there, the team gets to work. “We work all over the community,” Kristin says. “We’re in schools working with social workers and teachers on Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs),” if that’s needed.” The team also helps to coordinate routine medical and dental care. “Some clients haven’t been to the dentist for a long time by the time we see them,” Kristin comments. Limited access to transportation and mental health symptoms — leading to isolation and difficulty scheduling appointments — often pose barriers to care.
To address the experience of isolation and to provide education, the team recently started offering a group for those they serve to talk about mental health, chemical health, skill building, and how to better manage symptoms. The group goes a long way toward reducing stigma, too. “We’ve had quite a reaction from them knowing that someone in their age group also has mental illness,” Kristin says.
Though EQ Services have remained consistent since they began, team members have learned a lot about the children’s mental health system and available resources. And this year marks a significant turning point: many of the youth the team started working with — when the service began — turned 21 and have moved on to adult services. Commenting on his son’s recent transfer from the team, one dad expressed gratitude: his son has been able to stay in the community; he hasn’t been hospitalized; and he’s working full-time. His only regret — that EQ wasn’t around to help their family sooner.
“It’s very hard to see them leave,” Kristin admits of the clients she’s watched move on. “But it’s also a time of growth. All of the work that we’ve done together – the team and the client – that carries on. That’s what keeps me doing what I do.”