The Greene County Commission signed documents on Tuesday making official a $1 million provision of funding to a new emergency mental health facility in partnership with Burrell Behavioral Health.
The new Behavioral Crisis Center will be opening at 800 South Park in Springfield, the location of Burrell’s Park Center Detox Facility.
“This community is known for its ability to do collaboration,” Greene County Commissioner Harold Bengsch told OI. “Collaboration at its best. You will see that today as we sign this document which brings into being the full program for mental health and abusive behaviors.”
In 2017, voters in Greene County approved a sales tax that included prioritizing use of the funds for combating mental health and substance abuse issues. The goal was to ease the strain on the criminal justice system and emergency rooms, neither of which is meant to be a primary vessel for treatment of mental health crises.
A study from the Health Living Alliance showed that Greene County’s suicide rate of 24.8 per 100,000 was higher than the state (18) and national (14) averages. The county’s depression rate, measured by Medicare patients diagnosed with depression, was also higher than the state and nation.
Until now, most of the time someone experiencing a mental health crisis would be taken by police to an ER or the Greene County Jail.
“I’m so excited because this is the culmination of an idea I threw out nine years ago,” Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said. “I remember doing a mental health needs a assessment for our community. In meeting with those ladies [doing the assessment] that what we need is a place for my officers when they encounter someone with a mental health crisis to take them somewhere…to get my officers back on the street to do police work, but get these people connected to services.”
The new Behavioral Crisis Center will serve adults 18 and older who have emergent mental health and substance abuse issues. (This will not include individuals who need immediate, acute medical care.) There will be a 23 hour observation period during which the patient will be assessed for follow up treatment such as detox, therapy, or hospitalization.
“One of the things I love our community is the symphony of collaboration we have,” Springfield-Greene County Health Department head Clay Goddard said. “Burrell Behavioral Health has made significant strides in cutting wait times for services from months to in some cases hours. CoxHealth has doubled the psych safe beds in their facilities. Jordan Valley Community Health center launched a medication therapy clinic for those suffering from substance abuse. And Mercy Springfield increased telemedicine for mental health especially in their pediatric services.”
Commissioner Harold Bengsch told OI that this step isn’t the conclusion of the work needed to combat mental health crises in the community, but a beginning.
“What needs to happen now is the removal of the stigma that is attached to mental health,” Bengsch told OI. “That is being done in this community through Mental Health First Aid. Many people in the community are being trained right now to recognize these problems and more importantly, what to do whenever they encounter something of this nature. Stigma is a roadblock to doing what needs to be done. If you can remove the stigma that is so often associated with mental health then people can work toward a real solution.”