JEFFERSON CITY – Emergency responders currently have two options when responding to a mental health crisis or substance use problems: take them to an emergency room, or jail.
The state’s fiscal year ’22 budget includes $15 million to establish six new crisis stabilization centers across the state, including one in Jefferson City, and to further support of existing centers.
The purpose of this center is to prevent people from going to jail or paying large amounts in medical bills.
People suffering for a mental crisis will arrive at the center and will stay there for 23 hours. Patients may receive a meal, hygiene products, showers and other services. Patience will receive the treatment they need and also medications.
Compass Health Network will provide the space for three of the centers, including the one in Jefferson City.
“The center will offer psychiatry treatment for anyone that might need it,” Jamie Bartin, Deputy Chief Clinical Officer said. “We will also have nurses that can administer medication to the patients.”
Not only does it cost the patient, it has costs to the system. According to Compass Health, it costs nearly $6,300 per incident. That number includes the costs of responding officers, EMS personnel, the fire department, emergency room visit, court work and one night in detention.
The current approach is not working. Over the past three years, Missouri overall has seen a decrease in both hospitalizations by 20% and emergency room admits by 36% for behavioral health concerns. But, Compass Health’s services counties have seen nearly a 47% increase in emergency department admits, and a patient will pay on average $600 per incident.
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“There are many people who cannot afford to pay and not only that, but some people also go to court for no reason at all,” Bartin said. “If we can do something to make the current system better, we will.”
The crisis centers will be open 24/7 year round and will provide rapid access to triage, stabilization and linkage to appropriate community services for individuals 18 and over who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
The center will provide short-term observation and crisis stabilization services to all referrals in a home-like, non-hospital environment.
The workers will be a multi-disciplinary team that includes registered nurses, case workers, mental health technicians, licensed qualified mental health professionals and psychiatrists/nurse practitioners.
“It is really important to have employees who have experience,” Bartin said. “Nurses with emergency room or psychiatric experience for example.”
From 2012 to 2019, the Compass Health’s selected county service areas saw an increase in emergency room visits from 1,492 to 2,192, a 46.92% increase.
For the same time period, the entire state of Missouri saw a 23.84% increase in admissions, according to Compass Health. This clearly indicates the higher indicates the higher usage of avoidable emergency room visits fore the selected region if a crisis stabilization center was available.
When emergency responders encounter individuals with mental health or substance use problems, they currently have no choice but to deliver them to hospital emergency rooms or jail.
The crisis stabilization center will provide a safe and less costly alternative to divert individuals arrested for petty offenses away from the jail and hospital and into treatment services.