Liz Jarski’s work with Tri-County Mental Health Services includes lots of details and demands, but most of all she targets making life better for young people and their families in Clay, Platte, and Ray counties.
Labeled a Youth Qualified Mental Health Professional, Jarski starts by assessing the mental health needs of children and teens, followed by bringing in professionals from Tri-County and other area agencies. The goal is to create a treatment and support network that helps children who have a mental illness get better. An important aspect of her work includes networking with other agencies to identify appropriate services that already exist in the community.
“A big part of it is determining the most appropriate therapy and then working with them to make sure they get the help they need,” she explained.
One factor that makes the work challenging involves the wide range of referrals—young people recommended by teachers, psychologists and therapists. Tri-County’s two school liaisons also refer children and teens.
“We have a lot of young people who need assistance,” she noted. “It may be short term or long term, but they’re basically facing a challenge.”
The diagnoses range from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to autism and bipolar disorder. With Tri-County since last spring, Jarski has also seen an increase in disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), a childhood condition of extreme irritability, anger and frequent, intense temper outbursts. For nearly all of these, the difference between “kids just being kids” and illness is often one of degree.
“It’s more severe and more frequent,” she noted. “And it doesn’t just occur at one location. If a child is disruptive only at school, then it’s likely he or she is having trouble at school. But when it’s home, school and everywhere, it’s something more serious.”
Tri-County serves those who also face financial challenge, and Jarski keeps an eye out for available assistance with challenges other than mental health. “We may also look for help with basic needs like the inability to pay a water bill,” she said. “We wear a lot of hats because these things can impact the family’s ability to cope. That’s also why it’s important to know what’s (other services) out there.”
Originally from Kansas, Jarski and her husband, Devin, live in Kansas City, North with their son, Hunter, who is almost one year old. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Park University and master’s from the University of Kansas, both in social work. Work and home receive most of her attention right now.
“Hunter’s becoming mobile,” she laughed. “That’s keeping me pretty busy.”
Tri-County Mental Health Services, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit community mental health agency delivering behavioral health-care to individuals and families residing in Clay, Platte and Ray counties. Each year, Tri-County programs assist nearly 8,000 area residents while providing prevention services to over 40,000 individuals in concert with some 500 community volunteers. For further information, call (816) 468-0400 or visit www.tri-countymhs.org.