What can I try?

Adult Interventions

Advice for parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults.

Look at why youth is running away. If they need a break from a situation, give them a specific time frame in which they need to return and a physical space where they are allowed to go. If it is a younger youth, supervise them from a distance while they take their space.

Let them know the consequences of running away. This may include consequences in the home, or having them ticketed. Be prepared to follow through.

Let them know your priority is keeping them safe.

If they have run away, check the places you think they may be and/or call the people you think they are with.

If you know where they are, pick them up. It is the parent's responsibility unless the youth is resisting, at which point it is appropriate to call 9-1-1.for help. 

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Who can help?

Call 9-1-1

Call 9-1-1 to report them as a runaway. Have a recent picture, names of friends, and any other information specific to the situation. If the youth returns home after being called in, make sure to call back and let the police know. 

When calling 9-1-1, be ready to give the dispatcher the right information. This includes name: phone number, address, date of birth, people involved, a description of the situation, and what kind of help you need. It may be helpful to inform the dispatcher of the child’s mental health issues so that the responding officer is aware. Remember that 9-1-1 is an emergency response, and the goal of the responding officer will be to ensure safety and move on to the next call.

There are several possible responses by law enforcement. Law enforcement may provide support to stabilize, transport youth to the Emergency Room for evaluation, write a ticket, and/or place a youth in detention. Once law enforcement arrives, the outcome is up to their discretion. See Law Enforcement for more information.

Also visit 9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions.

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Get counseling or mental health treatment

There are several different ways to seek counseling or treatment. This includes a private therapist, a school counselor, mental health center services, and/or substance abuse treatment.

Private therapists can be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC), or a psychologist. This is usually covered by insurance and occurs weekly or every other week. Most therapists will individualize treatment and may offer more frequent sessions if needed. Youth may also receive counseling at school. This may be in the form of a school counselor who is accessible to all youth. Find out from the teacher who the school counselor is and how you and/or the youth can set up a time with them. The school counselor can give you more information about services available in the school.

Youth in crisis may need more intensive support than outpatient therapy or school counseling. Mental health centers offer a variety of services: case management, in-home services, and individual and family therapy. Some mental health centers also offer medication management. 

If this process is overwhelming, you need help finding the right fit, or you cannot wait for the first available appointment, contact the Youth Crisis Diversion Project. A crisis facilitator will meet with you within 24 business hours and guide you through the process of selecting the right service for your needs. You may also contact the Urgent Care Clinic at the Providence Center, where you can meet with a licensed clinical social worker and a psychiatric nurse within a week. 

For Missoula providers, see below. For providers in the Bitterroot Valley, click here.

Tips for Selecting a Provider.

Contact Information

Sexual Abuse/Assault

First Step

(406) 329-5776

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Seek an alternative place to stay.

If the youth is running away because of a situation at home, consider a plan for them to stay somewhere safe while other steps are put into place. 

There are times when getting some space can stabilize a crisis. If there is a safe friend or family member in the picture, it may help for the youth to stay with them for a few nights, or until a plan can be made. If this isn't an option, a short term stay in shelter care might be. Families should contact the Youth Crisis Diversion Project to access this option. Mental health centers can access shelter care for clients with approval from their supervisor.

Youth involved with Youth Court or Child & Family Services may also access shelter care through these agencies. 

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