Mental Health Crisis Center Opens In Multnomah County

From, June 20, 2011

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Multnomah County and three other funders open a new Crisis Center for people with mental illness. The facility was designed with intent to head off run-ins between police and people suffering a mental health crisis.

A new mental health crisis center aims to stop run-ins between police and the mentally ill.

Kevin McChesney stands in the entryway of the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center. He’s with Telecare, the company that’s going to run the center for the county. He gestures to the front desk and modest earth-tone furnishings. This was designed to look more like an office, he says, not like a psychiatric ward or jail cell.

“The intention is, regardless of who’s bringing the individual here, there will be two staff that come down –one of a professional nature. The other one being a peer,” McChesney said.

That’s important, McChesney says. Residents who come to stay for a few days may have had difficult experiences being hospitalized. He wants them to enter the Crisis Center on the right foot.

Walking through the facility, carpenters are making the last few refinements, the huge window panes are being cleaned and construction debris is being removed. McChesney says the eight single and four double rooms will house people in various states of crisis. They might be experiencing a first psychotic or depressive episode. They might have chronic conditions that have plagued them for years. The center needs to be a place with the flexibility to handle different conditions, address medical needs, and offer support.

Kevin McChesney: “We spend a lot of time sitting with people and talking to them. What we really want to do is give them an introduction to the concept of recovery, having them think about their future. It’s a personal process. We want them to leave our program and take that with them.”

One of the chief complaints consumers and family advocates share about the mental health system is the lack of continuity between crisis care and discharge. David Hidalgo supervised the development of the Crisis Center for Multnomah County. He says the hope is that the center can make meaningful referrals for all levels of outpatient treatment, making sure no one is turned out in the street with no follow-up care.

The center, he says, was an unusual collaboration. It’s co-founded by the county, the city of Portland, the state, and the non-profit agency Central City Concern.

“In our current economic times, it’s very hard to create new programs and fund new programs,” Hidalgo said.

The city, county, and state will provide operational funds. Hidalgo says everyone in the system is aware police officers and others need more options as they come into contact with people in crisis.

“We also are aware this won’t solve all the police’s need. Another priority the county has talked about is the need for another drop-in center. This program will certainly be of assistance and the other crisis services that operate will step up to help as well,” he said.

People covered by a county mental health Medicaid plan and the uninsured are eligible to come to the center.

Mental Health Crisis Center Opens

– from’s Think Out Loud, June 20, 2011


With the closing of Providence’s Crisis Triage Center in 2003, some mental health advocates say a gap opened up in the care of people experiencing a mental health crisis where incarceration or hospitalization were not appropriate.

Joint forces across the city, state and county responded with the Multnomah County Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center, which opens Monday.

The 16-bed facility will serve as a safety net for homeless and severely low-income individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, where they can stabilize, and then connect to longer term services for housing, treatment, education or job training.

The center is funded by Multnomah County, the city of Portland, Medicare and the nonprofit organization Central City Concern.

New county facility is ‘piece of the puzzle’ for mental health patients

Police pushed hard for a place to take people for treatment
From the Portland Tribune, June 20, 2011

Multnomah County will get more mental health treatment options Tuesday when the long-awaited 16-bed Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center begins operation at 55 N.E. Grand Ave.

Portland police were among those who have pushed hardest for what is sometimes called a sub-acute facility because it gives officers an alternative to jail or a hospital for people in custody who are suffering psychiatric crises.

“It’s the one puzzle piece that’s missing,” says David Austin, Multnomah County spokesman.

The center cost $4.5 million to build and will use up about $3.5 million in annual operating expenses. Funding is shared between Portland, Multnomah County, nonprofit Central City Concern and the state of Oregon.

Most of the new facility’s patients will stay between four and 14 days, according to Austin. The center will give them a place to become stabilized, with the idea that they will leave with a plan for follow-up treatment from other providers.

“We’re not just going to say, ‘It’s time for you to go.’ We’re going to be making connections,” Austin says.

Assuming there is an open bed, police officers will be able to take to the center people they suspect are having mental health crises. In addition, members of the public can access the center.

The center is expected to serve about 850 people a year. Austin says that people have questioned why a larger facility was not built, but that the 16-bed center is as large as it can be without being considered a hospital, which would require a more extensive state approval process.

“What we’re trying to do is avoid that expensive jail time and that expensive hospital stay,” Austin says.

Police often have no place to take people suffering psychiatric crises other than hospital emergency departments, where officers must wait, often for hours, before a person is admitted. Sometimes there are no psychiatric rooms available at hospitals, and Portland patients sometimes are taken as far as Southern Oregon in search of open psychiatric beds.

People who may need admission to the center can call Multnomah County’s mental health call center, 503-988-4888.

What gaps in mental health care do you see the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center filling? Were you ever in a situation where you or a loved one could have used such a center?

New mental health center in NE Portland will help fill gap for people in crisis

From The Oregonian, June 22, 2011

Ashleigh Brenton had her first psychotic episode in June 2000. She thought everyone around her was trying to kill her, so she loaded all her belongings into her car and began throwing them off the Morrison Bridge.

Later that day, when a gas station attendant reached into her car to take payment for gas, she took off, dragging him for several blocks.

Police eventually stopped and arrested Brenton, who spent three months in jail and another several months in a psychiatric hospital. After being released in early 2001, she relapsed in 2002 and spent another two years in the Oregon State Hospital, costing taxpayers thousands and Brenton her freedom, she said.

Brenton told her story as the new Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center opened this week in Northeast Portland. The center is the result of a multi-year effort by a public-private partnership that hopes to provide better and more lasting care for people suffering from mental health crises.

“Had a place like CATC been available, I think it would have been better for the community and for me,” said Brenton, now 55.

The 16-bed center started taking people Tuesday morning, and by Wednesday afternoon had two admissions. People can stay at the center from four to 14 days, long enough for them to stabilize and for staff to collaborate with them to come up with an ongoing treatment plan.

“It provides a critical service that hasn’t been available,” Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen said.

It will save money and provide better treatment than the current system, organizers said.

Supporters also hope the center can improve the relationship between police and mentally ill residents. Now, police can take them to the center instead of keeping them in jail, Cogen said. Mentally ill people also may be less afraid of police if they know they can go to a place where they will receive care instead of to jail or an emergency department, he said.

People who witness someone having a mental health crisis can report it to Multnomah County’s 24-hour Mental Health Call Center at 503-988-4888 or call Telecare directly at 503-232-1099. Staff will then determine if the person should go to the new center or somewhere else.

The county’s 24-hour Mental Health Call Center maintains a dedicated line for police to call when dealing with someone suffering from a mental health crisis and the staff can refer them to the new facility.

To be admitted to the center, a person must first undergo a mental health assessment at a hospital, a walk-in clinic or in the field, said Kevin McChesney, regional director of operations for Telecare, the private corporation responsible for running the center.

The center is a collaboration of the state, Multnomah County and Portland governments with two nonprofit organizations — Telecare and Central City Concern, which owns the space. The center underwent a $4.5 million renovation and has an annual operating budget of $3.5 million, said David Austin, a county spokesman.

It features common spaces with tan and light brown hues and floor-to-ceiling windows. It provides not only professional care, but also peer counseling from mentors who have a history of mental illness or had a mentally ill family member.

“It’s not just professionals telling them what to do to get better,” McChesney said. “They’re actually able to talk to someone who had similar experiences.”