Community Behavioral Health Services: Skills Services

Henry, who has lived in three foster homes by the age of 5, has become so disruptive in the classroom that he’s about to be suspended from kindergarten. Maren, a 15-year-old struggling with depression, is habitually late for school because she has trouble getting up in the morning. Eli is 8 and is exhausting his last chance at his after school care center because of his explosive temper.


Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is launching a new community-based initiative to serve children like Henry, Maren and Eli and many others so they can get help when and where they need it – at home, school, or in a daycare setting.

The program, known as Skills Services, will send specially trained behavioral health specialists into North Dakota communities, where they will teach and model coping skills to people who have a mental health diagnosis that affects their functioning.

“This will be a game-changer,” says LSSND Clinical Director Sara Stallman. “It’s that bridge to helping people heal and maintain vs. needing to be in full-blown crisis mode to get help.”

The skills program is relatively new to North Dakota, although it has been used successfully in other states. So far, nine behavioral health specialists have been hired to serve Bismarck, Minot, and Fargo, although staff and infrastructure will expand to meet demand, Stallman says.

Clients work with behavioral health specialists who are trained in crisis management, de-escalation techniques, interventions, and trauma-informed care.

Guided by personalized treatment plans, the specialists will work closely with clients and their families to teach, model and practice a variety of skills such as emotional regulation, self-calming techniques, socially appropriate behavior, budgeting, job interview skills and respect for other’s boundaries.

A high-needs client could receive care up to four hours per day, although most clients will require less time than that, says Tina Jacobs, provider relations coordinator at LSSND’s Imagine Thriving and Abound Counseling.

Clients can either be self-referred or referred by a third party such as a social service agency or a school.

To qualify, they must have an official diagnosis from the DSM-V and take part in a functional assessment measure to establish a baseline from which progress can be measured.

Imagine Thriving’s Skills Services are reimbursed by North Dakota Medicaid. At this point, many private insurance companies aren’t paying for skills services, although private rates are available and LSSND will work with clients to arrange payment plans.

With a behavioral health “coach” close by to help them navigate challenging situations, clients can learn and practice healthier behaviors, build confidence as they experience successes and cultivate newfound coping skills and resilience.

For more information about Skills Services from Imagine Thriving’s Community Behavioral Health Services, email Tina Jacobs at

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