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‘Help the children’: Daybreak Youth Services fills gaps in teens’ mental health needs and substance use treatment

Sarah Spier, director of external relations at Daybreak Youth Services, stands for a photo at Daybreak with a flyer promoting the Battle of the Bands lip-syncing fundraiser Thursday at Knitting Factory in downtown Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Sarah Spier, director of external relations at Daybreak Youth Services, stands for a photo at Daybreak with a flyer promoting the Battle of the Bands lip-syncing fundraiser Thursday at Knitting Factory in downtown Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

While the battle to save youth from drug addiction isn’t new, recent forces have raised alarm bells for the professionals who help those adolescents in treatment.

Here and nationwide, trends show significantly higher rates of youth fentanyl addiction, mental health issues, self-harm or suicides and childhood sex-trafficking, said Sarah Spier, Daybreak Youth Services director of external relations.

“Intentional self-harm among adolescents skyrocketed at the start of the pandemic,” Spier said. “We still see high levels of mental health issues, and the fentanyl increase has just been horrendous.”

They’re among the factors surrounding why the nonprofit founded in 1978 offers full-spectrum, trauma-focused adolescent addiction and mental health treatment for youth 12-17 from across the state. With inpatient and outpatient services, Daybreak has facilities in Spokane and Vancouver, Wash.

Spokane sites include one for girls ages 12-18 to receive inpatient mental health and substance use treatment and counseling. Daybreak also offers outpatient co-ed clinics and counseling for teenage boys and girls in Spokane Valley.

Mirror programs are in Vancouver, where boys from Spokane or statewide go for inpatient treatment.

And Daybreak just announced that its newest program to provide wraparound behavioral health support services to sex-trafficked youth, held separately from its other programs and within a licensed residential setting.

Daybreak developed its program for sex-trafficked youth under new legislation, House Bill 1775, Spier said. Under its provisions, law enforcement and service providers may refer children to these programs, or children may self-refer.

“It’s the first in Washington state to be a sex-trafficking-focused program within a licensed residential facility,” she said. “It’s the first of its kind where we provide full substance use disorder and mental health assessments onsite. We then provide up to 30 days of stabilization.

“Those youth will have direct access to continue and go into the co-occurring treatment facility to continue their substance use disorder and mental health treatment. Then, we have case managers who provide full wraparound support and very intensive discharge planning. We just opened.”

Regarding its overall care programs, Spier noted a May 11 national report on the escalation of drug overdoses.

“The CDC just announced the latest data that showed almost 108,000 people overdosed this last year, which is the highest-ever recorded in the United States, and the primary driver is fentanyl,” Spier said. “That’s something we see at Daybreak; we treat youth who are addicted to fentanyl, and we’ve seen nearly a 60% increase, we’re estimating, over the last year to year and a half.

“This is unlike anything that’s ever been seen.”

Daybreak is the state’s largest youth Medicaid treatment provider, Spier said, although it’s also authorized among all private insurance carriers. Daybreak relies on fundraisers to support its programs and life enrichment activities, including its first Battle of the Bands lip-syncing competition 7 p.m. Thursday at the Knitting Factory. Tickets are $50 to $100 for the event with a judges panel and appetizers.

Spier said Daybreak’s separate psychiatric evaluation and treatment unit, paused because of COVID-19, is expected to reopen soon in Spokane for short-term crisis stabilizations.

The unit’s reopening is crucial because of the numbers of adolescents causing intentional self-harm, she said, and to help in the youth mental health crisis also being seen at hospitals. “It’s really for mental health and suicidal youth.”

Also, Daybreak offers Wraparound Intensive Services, called WISe, offering in-home mental health care solely for Medicaid-qualified youth ages 0-21 and families, Spier said. A peer navigator for youth, therapist and case manager work as a team with families in the home.

During more than 40 years, Daybreak has countless stories of teens who succeeded after completing its programs and finished high school or college, Spier said. Daybreak has an accredited school onsite linking to high school credit or GEDs.

Reagan Cox, 20, is now at Eastern Washington University, where she’s majoring in social work and minoring in criminal justice and addiction studies. As a high school student, she entered Daybreak’s outpatient program. Cox then was recruited for an internship to support Daybreak’s Royal Closet, for teens to borrow formal attire for homecoming or prom.

“Daybreak just really helped me coming out of rehab inpatient and going into outpatient,” Cox said. “It helped me with staying sober and keeping focused on staying healthy. I stayed really close with the counselors, as well.”

If youth enter for substance use disorder treatment, mental health counseling is always a part of the care, Spier said.

“The clinical term is co-occurring. Oftentimes, when somebody is using a substance, they have an underlying mental health condition that they’re addressing,” Spier said. “Whether it’s depression or anxiety, many times drugs are a cause and coping mechanism to a mental health condition.”

The trauma-focused therapy tackles root causes. “That is the population we serve; youth from the foster care system, youth who have been sex-trafficked, youth who have been abused, youth who come from households with domestic abuse, intergenerational poverty, addiction and mental health.”

Another program helps youth be kids again, through its life enrichment program, also donation-supported, so Daybreak youth can go to boxing classes, art and music therapy, equine therapy and escape rooms.

“These are fun things to do; they’ve missed out on childhood, and because it is fun, they’ve wanted to stay in treatment,” said Catherine Reynolds, who leads that program.

After fears of closure in January 2020 because of budget shortfalls, Daybreak kept its doors open by then raising $500,000 to plug that fiscal hole and hire staff.

In summer 1978, co-founder Bill Yakely was on a tractor at his family farm near Spokane when he said he heard a clear voice say, “Help the children.”

With a young family and new veterinary clinic to run, he didn’t know what to do. When he shared the call with his pastor, the pastor told him he wasn’t the only member of the congregation to receive the message. That’s when a small group of people began Daybreak with one counselor.

Yakely still visits Spokane sites on occasion. Daybreak has kept a mission to “help the children.” Youth are referred by agencies and families, or self-refer, at (888) 454-5506.

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