JACKSON, MI — The new 24/7 crisis services center at LifeWays Community Mental Health couldn’t have come at a better time, Wade Stitt said.
As the agency’s director of access and crisis services, Stitt sees how expanded mental health services are vital to the community’s health now and after the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think we’ve begun to see the impact the pandemic has had on folks’ mental illness,” he said. “We’re starting to see some of that now in the increase in our crisis response and hospitalizations, but I think this is needed now more than ever.”
The round-the-clock crisis services center, expected to open at 1200 N. West Ave., this spring, aims to address the evolving community needs, Stitt and LifeWays CEO Maribeth Leonard said.
By being open 24 hours seven days a week, the center expands available services. Before, anyone in acute crisis — such as suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or psychosis — after hours or on weekends would likely visit a hospital for help. That’s a problem, Leonard said, because it can delay treatment.
“While they’re in the emergency department, as you can imagine, there’s really not any active treatment occurring during that period of time,” Leonard said. “There was a lot of discussion and a lot of vision by the LifeWays board to really look at the development of a crisis unit as an alternative for this community.”
The center includes several evaluation rooms, a crisis stabilization area where people can spend up to 23 hours, a five-bed crisis residential unit where people can spend up to 14 days, call center space and more.
Anyone in Jackson and Hillsdale counties, regardless of age or level of insurance, can visit.
Using the center to expand services has been part of LifeWays’ strategic plan, but the counties’ passage of community mental health millages in 2017 helped fund the vision.
LifeWays’ crisis services budget for 2021 is $2.8 million, agency officials said. It funds most of the services offered in the center, like screening, stabilization, the call center, and 23-hour crisis observation. Almost 20% of the budget comes from the millage and the rest is covered through insurance reimbursement.
When a consumer comes to the center with concerns about an acute mental health crisis, a licensed crisis clinician will evaluate them to determine whether services are needed or if they should be observed in the 23-hour stabilization area. If they need more long-term safety, they can be admitted to the residential unit, among other options outside of the center.
“It’s an opportunity for folks to come in that are in that acute crisis phase and for us to help get them stabilized and back into the community,” Stitt said.
LifeWays expects to double its current crisis team of about 30 to staff the overnight shifts. It is hiring crisis clinicians, direct care staff for the residential unit and licensed social workers.
Leonard looks forward to seeing how the crisis services will help the community, especially when addressing the pandemic’s affects on mental health, she said.
“We know that social isolation is not good for people,” she said. “People who are already struggling, who are already challenged with having supports, and now they’re having to isolate and not have those supports, this makes it even more difficult for them. It’s exciting that we’re going to have this for the community.”
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