A mental health crisis center soon will open in Oklahoma City, but its opening will not increase the total number of badly needed beds for people in crisis.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has asked the Legislature for more crisis beds and has plans to eventually open five additional crisis centers statewide.
By early September, the department will open a newly built mental health urgent care and crisis center at 2625 General Pershing Blvd. Half of the center will serve as an urgent care unit, where people suffering from a mental health crisis can stay for up to 23 hours and 59 minutes.
The other half of the center has 16 rooms and will serve as an inpatient crisis center, where people will stay generally three to five days before being discharged, often to another mental health facility.
Carrie Slatton-Hodges, the mental health department's deputy commissioner of treatment and recovery, said the need for more crisis beds and centers isn't related so much to demand but rather to the fact that Oklahoma just doesn't have enough.
The Legislature recently funded the department to build three new crisis centers, but two of the centers the department wants to build remain unfunded.
“If each one of those had an urgent care component, we think we may be at about capacity, but it's hard to say for sure,” Slatton-Hodges said.
In Oklahoma, an estimated 620,473 adults suffer from mental illness, according to the department. Of those, 146,213 have a “serious” mental illness and an estimated 135,047 have experienced serious psychological stress in the past year.
In 2009, about 2,161 people were treated in Oklahoma County at a state crisis center. In 2012, that number increased to an estimated 2,500.
There are two crisis centers in Oklahoma County — the Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center at 1200 NE 13 and the Oklahoma Crisis Recovery Unit in Garrison Tower at 940 NE 13.
When the new center opens, the Oklahoma Crisis Recovery Unit, which was a temporary location for crisis services, will close. The 16 mental health crisis beds at that unit will be moved to the new center.
The Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center has a newly renovated area that serves as its urgent care unit. That unit will close for now, and those services will be moved to the new center's urgent care unit.
Slatton-Hodges said the department doesn't have the money currently to keep both urgent care units open.
“Since this is a larger space and ... nicely laid out, we'll move urgent care here,” she said. “Our goal is to have urgent care at both locations, but I don't think we'll be able to do that from the get-go.”
The new crisis center will offer more privacy for people who stay for inpatient crisis services. At the Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center, people must share rooms. The new center offers 16 private rooms with bathrooms in each.
The center has a kitchen that staff can use to cook meals for people at the facility. It also has several offices and an enclosed outdoor area.
The department will lease the new facility for $37,276 per month from NorthCare, an Oklahoma City nonprofit mental health and substance abuse treatment organization.
Slatton-Hodges said the facility is the first building that NorthCare plans to build in the area, as part of a mental health campus.
“(NorthCare) knew they would have a taker because we have a lack of beds in Oklahoma County,” she said. “ ... Their goal is next to build their new community mental health center on this campus. Their goal is that this will be the main hub for behavioral health in Oklahoma County.”
CONTRIBUTING: Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau