A crisis intervention program that uses counselors who make house calls during the day or night is now availablein Prince George's County.
The organization, called Hidden Entrance, sends a man and a woman to respond in person to emergency situations such as family arguments, physical and sexual assult, suicide threats, some runaway situations and crucial problems related to lack of food, housing and transportation when no other resource is available.
The program, which for the last two years has been operated by volunteers during evening hours only, expanded its hours recently after receiving a one-year $106,409 grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. Hidden Entrance comes under the auspices of LEAA because of its purposes is to help keep young people out of the criminal justice system by working with them and their families. The program also received an additional one-year grant of $3,000 from the state Department of Health and mental Hygiene to help fund its three-year pilot program.
The idea for Hidden Entrance, which is now staffed by 12 paid workers and 15 volunteers, came from the staff of the seven-year-old Prince George's County Hotline, a telephone crisis intervention and referral service. Staff members suggested the house call approach, said Dick Geldof, coordinator of Hidden Entrance, because "there were situations that could not be adequately dealt with over the telephone," such as severe emotional crises, suicide threats, severe family disputes and adverse effects of hallucinogenic drugs.
"Someone who in crisis sees no resources open to them," Geldof said. They are "completely helpless, hopeless . . . they can't even mobilize themselves to come to an agency.
Staff members all have from four to seven years of experience working with young people and families, Geldof said, and psychiatric backup is available when it is necessary.
The Hidden Entrance program fills a void in Prince George's County, Geleof said, because "the only service that would respond (in person) 24 hours a day was the police department or the fire department," who might not have the time to spend three or four hours with a single crisis situation. He said the team members are less likely to get hurt than authorities, in some cases, and can handle some crisis situations more effectively because they are not authoritarian figures.
There was a typical case one recent evening, Geldof said. A young woman had tried to stab her younger brother. In the confusion that followed, she wound up severely cutting her own arm, Geldof said. When the family returned home from the hospital, the police came to the home, he said, and the mother refused to press charges against her own daughter.
The family was still arguing when two team members arrived, and the Hidden Entrance team first spent time calming things down, Geldof said.Then they "helped the family take a look at what was going on with them. Everyone had different ideas" on who was responsible for the problem.
By "building on the good feelings that were still in the family . . . we were able to get the family into family therapy," Geldof said. As in other cases, Hidden Entrance checked the progress of the family about five weeks later and found they were still in therapy.
People are referred to Hidden Entrance by the police or a social worker or probation officer, or they can call the Prince George's County Hotline at 864-7271 for referral to Hidden Entrance any time of the day or night. A teletypewriter is also available for deaf people who want to contact Hidden Entrance. The TTY number is 864-4488.