Q&A: Social crisis advocate discusses role, purpose within the community

Krysta Carabelli stands outside Monday, April 11 at the Mount Pleasant Division Public Safety.

Krysta Carabelli joined the Mount Pleasant Division of Public Safety's new position as the social crisis advocate.

The position was created after the approval of a one-year pilot program with R.I.S.E Advocacy Inc., an agency that provides free support services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The goal of the agreement was to offer networking services to those suffering from mental health issues, temporary crisis and substance abuse or drug overdose. 

Carabelli is a two-time graduate from Central Michigan University where she earned a master's degree in clinical professional counseling. She has experience as a social worker, domestic violence counselor and sexual assault counselor.

She also worked with R.I.S.E Advocacy Inc. this past year specializing in trauma and crisis counseling. 

Central Michigan Life sat down with Carabelli to discuss the new program and her work for the community.

Q: Tell me about this new pilot program and what being a social crisis advocate means?

A: We are kind of building it from the ground up. We are getting systems in place so that I can set up contact notes with people and be able to say I spoke with this person, this many times, this year and this is the progress they made and this is the help they got. For me, it's mostly about trying to meet people where they are and get them the resources that they need. That might mean someone (might be) having a traumatic situation that they are struggling with, such as sexual assault, domestic abuse, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), addiction or a mental illness. (Being a social crisis advocate means) just being there for them and handling that crisis with them. (It is about) letting them feel what they need to feel and not being judgmental of it.

What is it like working alongside the Mount Pleasant Police Department? 

The police are there to provide the safety aspect of things...To take on the mental capacity for these events as well is such an overwhelming task for anybody. So, if we can collaborate and the police can do their work, I can do mine then that's a whole well-rounded response to somebody who's experiencing a crisis. It will also reduce interactions with police, which may be scary to some, and allows the police to handle more calls and tasks...We created a space if there are victims of a crime, they can come into my office and talk. It's not an interrogation room. Sometimes it's helpful to be able to discuss that in a way that just feels nonjudgmental. The other portion of that is training. If I notice something going on, I'm like, 'Hey, why don't we do things this way?' They can inform me of their culture, and I can make suggestions. We can collaborate, which is very progressive for a law enforcement agency.

I know you are a Central Michigan University alumna. How does it feel to be serving this community?

It's almost weird in a way because, in my undergraduate, I was looking at people who did this kind of stuff...I never imagined myself in this realm. I'm originally from a very small town... I moved up here for my undergraduate and I love the community and decided to stay. I've lived here for 11 years now. I really wanted to get out and help people and do what I could so I moved up this way and never left.

What made you interested in this line of work?

I had my undergraduate in psychology with my minor in gerontology. I always thought I would work with older adults like at a nursing home. I ended up going back to school for my graduate counseling degree. I did an interview with a therapist for domestic violence that worked for R.I.S.E. She talked about how passionate she was and how much she loved her job. She was excited to go to work and she'd been doing it for 20 years, and it never changed for her... I contacted them for my internship in my graduate program. When I started, I could see how this job helps people in a very boots on the ground type of way. The change was right before your eyes. I have people come and talk to me and meet again in the course of a few months,  or the course of a year, and their lives were completely different and for the better.

How common is it for someone to be assaulted or have violence committed against them?

One of every three people on a college campus experience sexual assault. Sexual assault of women is one in five nationwide. It's one in 33 for men. We only know what is reported too. When it comes to domestic violence, one in three families are impacted... If you see five families at the grocery store, at least one has been impacted by this, and that's a very large number and a sad reality. We are doing everything we can to provide as much services as we can to our community.

What are the kinds of resources that you offer to people in need of your services? 

We do have a shelter if anybody is seeking shelter or needs help in that way. We've also helped get homeless individuals into apartments, helped families locate food pantries and access to clothing. We work with a wide range of people and we connect them to any resources or services they might need. When we do help them get these resources, we could see the relief on their faces. You don't get that in other places. You don't get that in other jobs and that was just so rewarding and so uplifting. The work we're doing is hard, but it is so worth it.

How do you stay positive when you are having to support people through some of the biggest challenges in their lives?

One of the biggest things to remember is that you're a human being... I go to a scene and tell myself I'm going to help that person get through it and I'm going to do what I need to in that moment. Then I'm going to go home and I'm going to need to... decompress from that. I can take my husky for a walk or play with my fiercely independent 2-year-old daughter. I'm going to do things for myself to maintain my mental health. I think the biggest thing is being authentic and realizing that you're human, and that there are going to be moments... because even though it sucks, it makes a difference.