Community Organizations Partner to Build Crisis Center

Mental health crisis facility needed in rural Oregon county.

For years, public safety, health and government officials in Clatsop County talked about the need for a crisis center to help people suffering from mental health problems. .

Given the rural location of the county, people have ended up in the hospital, traveling for hours to the closest crisis center or sitting behind bars in jail.

“We all know we’re failing to provide that quality of care for people needing crisis respite,” said Sumuer Watkins, executive director of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare.

For many years the conversations never went anywhere because of funding scarcity and someone to take charge.

But the advent of the Affordable Care Act and the creation of Coordinated Care Organizations has opened the door to build a crisis respite center in Warrenton.

“Patients have the best outcomes when they receive supportive services close to home with coordinated transition to outpatient service,” according to Bonnie Thompson, chief operating office of Providence Seaside Hospital. “This option also eliminates the need to keep many patients in the hospital while they wait for inpatient beds, or have to be transported hours away to the nearest specialized service” she added.

Some patients have been transported as far as eight hours away to a center that can serve their needs. “(A respite crisis center) gives them a safe place to go that’s less restrictive than the jail or the hospital,” Watkins said.

Call to action

Plans to build a crisis respite center in Clatsop County started about a year ago when Thompson, Watkins and the local jail commander talked about the best place to care for people with mental health issues.

“It just took off,” Watkins said.

That conversation spurred a community collaboration between Clatsop Behavioral Health, Clatsop County, Columbia Memorial Hospital, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, and Providence Seaside Hospital. Now they intend to open a stand-alone 16-bed crisis/respite center, caring for people who’ve been referred or been seen at in the emergency room.

GOBHI purchased a building that was formerly a childcare facility in Warrenton, and Providence is paying for the furnishings, while Clatsop Behavioral Health will provide services. Once zoning is finalized, construction should take about 12 weeks.The project also includes a $60,000 grant to train law enforcement in crisis intervention training.

Nowhere to stay

The need for mental health services in Clatsop County is high. In 2012 the county’s suicide rate was 24.2 per 100,000, well above the state rate of 18.5 and higher than nearby counties such as Tillamook which was 19.8 and Columbia which was 12.1, according to a 2014 health improvement plan by Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization

Columbia Pacific will contribute resources to the project, said executive director Mimi Haley. “CCO’s have been given a set of marching orders by the state and a little bit of funding in order to invest in what the communities feel are important priorities from a community health perspective.”

Shelby can be reached at [email protected].

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