Center for Mental Health launches mobile crisis service

The Center for Mental Health's walk-in crisis clinic at 300 N. Cascade Ave. The center recently launched a mobile response program for those in crisis, who cannot access the clinic, and whose situation does not require a law enforcement response. 

People in need of immediate mental health care can’t always access the Center for Mental Health’s resources, particularly in rural areas. Enter the center’s new mobile crisis response team.

“Our local crisis response program is a 24-hour a day program that works to help support someone who is in a crisis in the community — in their home, their school, or other community-based location — that, due to where they live or availability, that they are unable to come to our crisis walk-in center in Montrose,” chief clinical officer Amanda Jones said Wednesday, in introducing the new service to area law enforcement agencies.

The center operates a crisis stabilization clinic on North Cascade Avenue, in addition to its offices on Miami Road. Therapists have also stepped up to work as co-responders who travel with police agencies on calls where their services are needed.

The mobile crisis program is one more tool to help meet urgent mental health needs.

Trained professionals are sent out to de-escalate situations and stabilize the involved individual. The team conducts a crisis evaluation and then connects the patient to a clinician for an in-person or telehealth assessment. The team can then transport the patient to the crisis center, hospital or other facility, plus make a followup care plan.

People in crisis can call for help themselves; others can also call on behalf of someone else. The crisis team that receives the calls will evaluate the requests and then dispatch someone to help.

Calls can be made to the local crisis line at 970-252-6220 or to the state crisis line, 844-493-8255.

“That phone call is answered live,” said Heather Thompson, the center’s director of Nursing and Emergency Services.

“They basically triage the phone call and determine what needs to happen next. They can either talk to the person on the phone, try to get them to come to the (crisis walk-in) unit. If they’re not able tot come to the unit, a mobile crisis response is necessary.”

The service launched early this week; already, there have been a few crisis responses, Thompson said.

“It really is a community-based response,” Jones said.

The service is available 24/7 in Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray and Hinsdale counties. It is available to people of all ages and regardless of insurance or ability to pay, thanks to state investment.

“We should not be needing to work out someone’s ability to pay for a service when they are needing that level of an immediate response,” Jones said.

The program comes with support from the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, which allows a response time of up to two hours in “frontier” communities such as Montrose and the other counties; Jones said that for areas in Montrose and Delta, the response time is likely to be much quicker.

Although the function is similar to the co-responder model, the new mobile crisis team is different — professionals still deploy to a person in need, but the idea is to avoid having to use law enforcement.

“Part of the goal of mobile response is that we are able to screen and, hopefully, deploy our team to a situation without the need for law enforcement. That is what is a little bit different from a mobile response and a co-response model,” Jones said.

The center uses established guidelines to determine when its professionals can safely respond without law enforcement support.

“The goal is that once there is a mobile response, that we are also able, if the individual is safe for transport, that we can transport them to our crisis stabilization unit, a psychiatric hospital location, again, with an intention of taking primary pressures from law enforcement around the need of response or requests for transportation,” Jones said.

The mobile crisis response can be used when the location of the individual in crisis is clear; he or she is willing to speak with a clinician; there is no risk of harm to self or others; no medical concerns and the individual cannot access the walk-in clinic.

A law enforcement response will be needed when unsecured weapons are at the scene; there are unsecured aggressive animals; a domestic dispute is in progress or the person is aggressive or violent toward others.

When a person is actively harming himself or herself, other others; attempting suicide; having a medical emergency; in unresponsive, or is significantly impaired by drugs, medication or alcohol, 911 should be called.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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