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.
“A peer is someone who has had issues with addiction or mental health diagnosis and had gone through a period of recovery. They have gone through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse certification course and passed an exam,” Sims said.
One of the first community partners helping to make sure follow-up contact happens is Brittany Foos, a case worker and Community Liaison for Red Rock Community Mental Health Center. She said the main benefits she sees for the team is the collaboration with partners in the community and with the local crisis centers.
“Because we are able to meet with clients while they are still in the Urgent Care we are bridging the gap between in-patient and out-patient treatment,” Foos said.
Foos’ new position also allows her to visit other facilities, too.
“The therapeutic relationship can be established while in the Urgent Care Center, and case management can begin before clients are seen at the Red Rock offices,” Foos said. “Establishing that face-to-face relationship early on is most valuable. It also provides more consistency for the client.”
Serving people in a less restrictive way possible is a goal of this new model of crisis care, and the numbers indicate that it is working. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses reported a 51 percent decrease in the number of people being admitted to the hospital in the last quarter of 2013.
Deneka Cain, director of the Oklahoma County Crisis Center, said about the Crisis Response team can now occasionally go into the field to make contact with a person reported to be in crisis.
“This represents a real change in the way services are delivered. No longer do we have to wait for the client to come through the door to help them,” Cain said.
In the first quarter of 2014 Oklahoma City Police Department Crisis Intervention Team officers have responded to 2946 calls for help with a mental health or substance abuse call. More than 637 of those calls resulted in the person in crisis being transported to the Oklahoma County Crisis Center.
Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center is located at 2625 General Pershing Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73107, Crisis Phone: 405-522-8100 or 800-522-9054.
For help finding the closest crisis services near you call 2-1-1. If there is immediate danger or you need help getting the person in crisis to services safely dial 9-1-1 and tell the dispatcher that the person you are calling about is experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis or ask for a Crisis Intervention Team police officer.
Jean Williams is a NewsOK Contributor and a volunteer with the Edmond North-OKC National Alliance on Mental Illness. Email: email@example.com
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