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Behind the Scenes of Mobile Crisis Intervention: A Riverside Family Partner Interview

Meet Zoe McAnulty, a Family Partner with Riverside’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Team in Norwood. Family Partners have experience as caregivers for loved ones with mental health challenges or special needs. They help parents navigate the child-serving systems, identify community resources, develop contacts with support groups, and more.


The following interview was conducted by fellow Riverside employee Jake Donofrio and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Jake Donofrio: Hey Zoe, I’m glad we were able to connect for this interview! Let’s start with the basics — tell me a little bit about yourself and how you joined Riverside Community Care.


Zoe McAnulty: Around 11 years ago, I applied for a different job with Riverside, but after mentioning my oldest daughter was on the autism spectrum, Riverside recommended I become a Family Partner instead. I had never heard of that position, but after discussing it, I felt the fit was perfect. And I’ve been here ever since.


JD: How would you describe your role as a Family Partner to someone unfamiliar with the job?


ZM: As a member of the Mobile Crisis Intervention (MCI) Team, I’m here to help parents while our clinicians assist their child during a mental health emergency. This can take many different forms, but a lot of it is just talking with them, offering support, and providing resources.


When we get a call, I’ll travel with the clinician and talk to a parent while the clinician speaks with the child so everybody can communicate freely. A parent’s perspective and the child’s interpretation of events are often different, so we have to bring it all together to make the ideal treatment recommendation. Speaking with family members helps the team get a better picture of what’s going on and what the parents are looking for.


And sometimes, they don’t even know. They just don’t know what to do. And that’s OK — we’re here to help.


JD: And what exactly is Mobile Crisis Intervention?


ZM: Mobile Crisis Intervention is essentially emergency mental health care. We don’t have sirens, but we see people as soon as possible and wherever they feel most comfortable.


We manage the crisis and conduct our initial evaluation, then make our recommendation for future care and prepare for the seven-day follow-up. I take care of any referrals and make sure that the parents understand the services we are discussing. So, I’ll send them an e-mail with a description of in-home therapy, for instance.


JD: What are the benefits of calling the MCI team instead of visiting an emergency room?


ZM: Emergency rooms are often really traumatic for kids. They may have already had negative experiences in emergency rooms or hospitals in general. The MCI team provides immediate, insurance-blind care and is equally capable of crisis response. The types of follow-up services we can provide or recommend after crisis intervention may depend on insurance, and we can help families figure that out.


JD: Can you go more in-depth on the resources you’ve connected people with?


ZM: Often, the first step is helping with referrals — to outpatient therapy, in-home family therapy, or other forms of treatment that best fit the situation. My role involves taking some of the burden off parents because looking for these resources when your child is in the middle of a crisis can feel overwhelming. The resources I provide really depend on what’s needed, though.


There was a family that wanted equine therapy, so after researching online and looking around, I was able to find a therapeutic riding program that took their MassHealth insurance and got them on the waitlist.


JD: How does your lived experience help families in crisis?


ZM: If a parent has never encountered the mental health system, it can feel reassuring to hear the specifics from a fellow parent whose kids have been through it. As I mentioned, my oldest daughter is on the spectrum. And my middle daughter has struggled with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. She had to be hospitalized, so I, unfortunately, know what that’s like.


These are emotionally intense situations, and I’ll talk about my own experiences to let parents know that what they’re feeling is normal. And to make sure they know that healing is possible.


JD: Can you discuss the knowledge and strategies that help you thrive as a Family Partner?


ZM: Working with Riverside for many years and having been in similar situations as the parents I assist has given me unique insight and knowledge into the child-serving system.


Parents might not realize that their child could benefit from a neuro-psych evaluation, or even know what that is. These evaluations help determine what’s going on and help you understand the best ways to support your child. It’s important to be able to help parents fill in some informational gaps they might have about managing mental health conditions.


JD: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we conclude this interview?


ZM: Family members or guardians don’t have to wait until an actual crisis occurs to call MCI. We want to help families before a crisis happens, and people shouldn’t have any reservations about calling us. If you are unsure if you need the crisis team, call the crisis team because we can help you figure that out.


Mobile Crisis Intervention Team Contact Information


Norwood and surrounding communities: 800-529-5077

  • Canton, Dedham, Dover, Foxboro, Medfield, Millis, Needham, Newton, Norfolk, Norwood, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Wellesley, Weston, Westwood, and Wrentham


Milford and surrounding communities: 800-294-4665

  • Bellingham, Blackstone, Brimfield, Brookfield, Charlton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Franklin, Holland, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millville, Northbridge, North Brookfield, Oxford, Southbridge, Sturbridge, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, Wales, Warren, Webster, and West Brookfield


For all other areas: Call or text 833-773-2445


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