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Pima County's new crisis center: 11,000 calls for help each month

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Mental Health Week

Pima County's new crisis center: 11,000 calls for help each month

It is less likely now that someone like the mentally ill Vickie Logan will be arrested by a sheriff's deputy in a minor nuisance case, taken to the county jail and die a suicide now that the Crisis Response Center has opened on Tucson's South Side.

Logan, 42, hanged herself in her jail cell after a nurse ordered her out of a common area after she was observed talking to people who weren't there, the jail's supervisor said afterward.

The nurse who evaluated her on admission didn't think she needed to see a psychiatrist right away or have access to prescription medications that controlled her symptoms.

That was in April 2005.

Today people who need mental health help in a crisis are more likely to get it because a law enforcement officer can take a criminal suspect to the Crisis Response Center, the county's one-year-old facility just south of Ajo Way at South Country Club Road, near University of Arizona Medical Center South.

The CRC, built with county bond funds, is operated under the supervision of the state-designated regional behavioral health agency, the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona.

The CRC works cooperatively with UAMC's psychiatrists, who provide psychiatric evaluation, medication and related services for people in a mental health crisis.

Neal Cash, CEO of CPSA, said that in the first year of operation, from Sept. 1, 2011 through Aug. 30, 2012, an average of more than 900 adults a month were seen at the CRC.

A danger to themselves

As the months pass, Cash said, "People are presenting at the CRC mostly for concern that they're a danger to themselves. We've seen an exponential increase in the use of crisis services: about 11,000 crisis calls a month, and an average of 970 people (seen) each month at the CRC in its first full year.

In the first year, the CRC saw 10,013 adults.

During that same period, an average of about 136 youth (17 and under) were seen each month at the CRC, a total of 1,626 young people.

Cash said that of them, about 14 percent underwent emergency psychiatric inpatient evaluation under the state's Title 36 law, which allows a judge to hold an individual for evaluation if he is a danger to himself or others.

In the first year, 1,700 applications for emergency admission were handled by the CRC, operated under contract by Crisis Response Network of Southern Arizona.

Neal said the CRC is fulfilling its promised function of diverting some of the mentally ill from jail and local hospital emergency rooms.

"We promised our community three things when we asked them for funds to build the Crisis Response Center: That we'd no longer use hospital Emergency Departments and jail as our mental health system; that we would make it easier and faster for law enforcement to transfer people to care; and that we would take some of the pressure off EDs," Cash said in email.

"We have a full range of crisis services at the CRC – assessment, observation, 24-hour triage and sub-acute beds for short-term crisis stabilization, all in one place," he said.

"That, plus the new Desert Hope detox center that's nearby, has taken a load off EDs and the jail, which often was where these individuals ended up. We had 2,183 transfers to the CRC from EDs alone in its first year," Cash said.

"Law enforcement now can safely and securely transfer someone to the CRC or Desert Hope and be back on the street within 15 minutes. It used to take at least 2 hours for an officer to transfer someone into care. The shorter transfer time is like adding five full-time officers to the force," Cash said.

"Law enforcement has been our biggest champion. There's no better compliment than having law enforcement and first responders acknowledge that you're helping the community better serve the folks who live there."

Crisis Response Center services

  • Open 24/7/365
  • State-of-the-art crisis call center. This is the hub of CPSA's crisis-care system. CPSA's Crisis Line operates from the call center, handling calls from hospital emergency departments, law enforcement, the Mobile Acute Crisis [MAC] teams.
  • Court-ordered evaluations are handled at the CRC. Call center staff have up-to-the-minute information on crisis resources throughout the CPSA care system and can "direct traffic" to available resources.
  • Crisis screening, triage and assessment for adults, children and youth.
  • Separate adult and youth/child assessment and crisis-stabilization sections for stays up to 24 hours.
  • Beds for adult crisis-stabilization stays of 24 hours or more, for people who need more time to stabilize in a secure environment, typically for a few days.
  • Sally port for law enforcement and other first responders to allow secure transfer of individuals in crisis.
  • Peer-operated "warm" line.
  • Co-located staff from community-based providers for coordination of care and transition to community.
  • Co-located advocacy staff from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Southern Arizona.
  • Co-located peer staff from HOPE Inc. who help clients navigate the care system.
  • Facilitation of the individual's return to the community and link to resources by on-site provider staff and peer-support workers.

How to get crisis services

Call CPSA's free, anonymous, 24/7 Communitywide Crisis Line: (520) 622-6000 or 1-800-796-6762.

Staff provides triage over the phone to make sure you will get the appropriate services for your need, as promptly as possible.

Anyone can come to the Crisis Response Center 24/7 as a walk in. The CRC is just south of Ajo Way on Country Club Road.

Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day, they also can come to the walk-in crisis center operated by the Southern Arizona Mental Health Corp. in midtown, at 2502 N. Dodge Blvd. Enter on Flower Street. This crisis center is licensed by the state. Its staff provides crisis evaluation, stabilization and referral.

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