April 15, 2024

Larry Burns – CEO Children’s Foundation, host Caring for Kids
On this monthly radio program, The Children’s Foundation President and CEO Larry Burns talks to community, government and business leaders about issues related to children’s health and wellness.
Guests for this discussion were Larry Burns, President and CEO of The Children’s Foundation, talks with Dr. Matt LaCasse, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist for Children’s Hospital of Michigan; Anne Perry, Michigan Area Director for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; and Johnny Crowder, Founder & CEO of Cope Notes.
The hour-long show typically airs at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month on WJR 760AM. Here’s a summary of the show that aired Sept. 27, 2022; listen to the entire episode, and archived episodes, at yourchildrensfoundation.org/caring-for-kids.
Larry Burns: What got you interested in substance abuse for adolescents and youngsters?
Dr. Matt LaCasse, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, 
Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Matt LaCasse: It’s pretty much always been an interest. I decided to focus on psychiatry in medical school. I quickly became interested in substance abuse — specifically, adolescent substance abuse. 
Burns: Can you explain a little bit about your role at Children’s Hospital of Michigan? 
LaCasse: I’m a staff psychiatrist and my role is to help out kids that are medically hospitalized. We also do a lot of work out of the Emergency Department, helping kids in crisis. 
Burns: Have you been surprised by anything you’ve seen because of COVID? 
LaCasse: It’s been a very difficult couple of years. In general, people have struggles that need to be addressed professionally. The trend has been that kids are using more services. 
Burns: The Children’s Foundation and several of our donors will be working with you in the near future. Tell us about that.
LaCasse: The substance abuse arena right now, particularly for adolescents and young adults, is a very difficult spot to be in because there are not a lot of services. What’s absolutely necessary is a clinic that provides access to kids.
Philanthropic money would allow us to not turn any kids away based on their insurance or based on their ability to self-pay. We’ll offer medication, treatment, as well as general mental health treatment. The clinic will be online this year and serving Metro Detroit.
Burns: Will this be a clinic that would be for people in crisis?
LaCasse: Essentially our doors will be open for anybody that calls and says, “I am struggling.” It’s going to be tailored to the adolescent population. 
Burns: What other care providers will be part of this?
LaCasse: Therapists and case managers will be doing a lot of the individual therapy, family therapy. The physicians will be providing psychiatric workups, medication reviews, providing medications and sort of overseeing the operations of the clinic.
Burns: Is family therapy part of the process?
LaCasse: Substance abuse rarely stands alone; there’s often some unresolved conflict with parents or other mental health issues within the family. If we turn a blind eye, then it would be tough to expect the problems to really change. But if we’re able to address those things and deal with the family as a whole and as a unit, outcomes seem to be better.
Larry Burns: Tell us about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Anne Perry, Michigan Area Director, American 
Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Anne Perry: I lost my friend to suicide in 2007. I found the Out of the Darkness Walk at Kensington Metro Park and with it, a community of people that understood what it was like to suffer that particular type of loss. I continued attending that walk and began volunteering. I ended up chairing the Metro Detroit walk and joined the board of directors. I stepped into the staff role almost three years ago. This is not just work for me; this is everything. I fully believe in what we’re doing and that we can bring hope to people who have been affected by suicide. We have chapters in all 50 states. I am proud to be a part of the work that we’re doing at the Michigan chapter.
Burns: What would be an example of a program that you might have in a community?
Perry: Our main program that we deliver the most is called Talk Saves Lives. It’s a one-hour program with basic information on suicide prevention, like warning signs, risk factors and current data. We also have specific programming around teen suicide and mental health. We have different modules of Talk Saves Lives, including an LGBTQ model and a seniors model. 
We don’t have any direct services. We provide training for support group facilitators, but we don’t run those support groups. We also don’t have a crisis line, but we advocate for better funding for those crisis lines. If we all are able to work together, then we can hopefully reduce the suicide rate.
Burns: You recently received a grant from The Children’s Foundation. Tell us about that.
Perry: We are looking to educate 75 new trainers to be able to deliver our programs. We’re going to be hosting five different conferences throughout the state.
Burns: How can people support AFSP? How do they reach out if they’re worried about a loved one?
Perry: To support us, visit afsp.org/michigan. We’re always looking for volunteers — we have community walks throughout the state. I’d highly recommend coming to a walk and feeling that sense of community.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone close to you, my best advice is to trust your gut and to not be afraid to have that conversation. There’s a common misconception that talking about suicide will make things worse, and I can tell you that having that conversation does the exact opposite. It allows the person to feel heard and seen. Don’t be afraid to have that conversation, and utilize the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988 or send a text to 741741. If there is an immediate crisis, please call 911.
Larry Burns: Tell me about Cope Notes.
Johnny Crowder, Founder & CEO, Cope Notes
Johnny Crowder: Cope Notes sends randomly timed text messages to train your brain to think in healthier patterns. It could be a psychological fact or a journaling prompt, something to pull you out of a negative thought pattern and catalyze a positive one instead.
Burns: How many of these might occur during a day?
Crowder: Usually one or two, based on your preferences. We realized that if we text people too often, they come to expect the messages and they don’t feel as surprising. If we don’t text people often enough, then it won’t form new neural pathways.
Burns: How do people sign up?
Crowder: Go to CopeNotes.com and type in your phone number.
You can also give gift subscriptions for friends or family members. It’s not just for people who are living with mental illness. We serve many people who are trying to stay on top of stress and take good care of their brains.
Burns: What would be an example of a message?
Crowder: Half of what makes Cope Notes effective is the actual text message and the other half is the delivery, the fact that it’s surprising your brain. I like this text a lot: “When anxious, your body hunches over to protect the heart and lungs. Show your body that it’s not in danger by standing up straight with your shoulders back.”
Burns: Could you share some advice?
Crowder: Experiencing abuse as a youth made me less trusting of adults. A lot of the people that were trying to help me were kind and professional, but I had this prejudice against them simply because they were adults. They might have reminded me of people who had hurt me. Now, I tell clinicians that some of the resistance they face from a teenager or a child might be because of past experiences that they haven’t shared with you. Establishing trust is where a lot of focus should be.
Burns: How would you encourage others to help young loved ones that may be struggling?
Crowder: The first thing that helped me was feeling included. I had this narrative in my mind that if I just isolated myself enough, I would be safe. In fact, that put me at greater risk because I was living with fairly severe mental illness. Being included and feeling invited helped combat my tendency to isolate. If there’s an opportunity to proactively engage with that child consciously and on purpose, include them in something that you didn’t need to include them in.
Every ounce of effort you put into building a relationship with a troubled teen is not wasted, even if that teen rejects you. 
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