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Inside the Oklahoma Mental Health System: The Community Response Team

The Community Response Team is working to make outcomes better for those who have sought mental health or substance abuse crisis services in Oklahoma County. Through community partnerships, help is extending well beyond the crisis center doors.
by Jean Williams Modified: July 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm •  Published: July 18, 2014
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The Community Response team is working to make outcomes better for those who have sought mental health or substance abuse crisis services in Oklahoma County. Through their community partnerships, help is extending well beyond the crisis center doors where services previously stopped.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, since Oklahoma County Urgent Recovery Center opened in September of 2013, there has been a 51 percent increase in the number of people seen at the Oklahoma County Crisis Center.

“The Crisis Response Team was created along with the Urgent Recovery Center as part of the Urgent Recovery Center, a 12 chair stabilization unit, with a maximum stay of 23 hours and 59 minutes,” said Ron Sims, a licensed clinician and the response team leader.

Crisis services can be traumatic when they are involuntary. That is why officials hope those in crisis will respond to this new and voluntary level of crisis care.

While admission to the traditional crisis center required the meeting of strict criteria, such as immediate danger of harm to self or others or the acute inability to meet basic needs, these are not the requirements to receive help on the Urgent Care side. The threshold to receiving crisis care has been lowered so that people can be connected to service providers that will help them avoid an escalation in their circumstances.

“The Crisis Response Team was created to follow up [with people after discharge] in the community and try to bridge the gap between our services and community services. Because what was happening, was that our services used to stop at our door. For whatever reason people would fail to make their follow up appointments and then they would end up back in our facility,” Sims said.

According to a 2009 Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration report, “Adults with a serious mental illness or emotional disorder often lead lives characterized by recurrent, significant crises. These crises are not the inevitable consequences of mental disability, but rather represent the combined impact of a host of additional factors, including lack of access to essential services and supports, poverty, unstable housing, coexisting substance use, other health problems, discrimination and victimization.”

The Community Response Team sees it role as facilitators. The two full-time state employees anchor a team of community partners. The team is making a difference by engaging people in services that might prevent a crisis. In fact, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has noticed at 46 percent increase in the number of individual seeking help from a community mental health center after an Urgent Care visit.

The first objective of the team is to make follow-up contact with those discharged the day before from the Urgent Care Center. The person responsible for coordinating those efforts is the peer recovery support specialist.

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by Jean Williams
NewsOK Contributor
My degree in Psychology did not prepare me to recognize mental illness in my own family. I authored the brochure "What to do in a Mental Health Crisis in Oklahoma County," not because I had the answers, but because I didn't. A wide variety of...
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