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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 2:32 am | Overcast 54º

 
 
 
 
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New Crisis Stabilization Unit Aims to be Early Intervention for Santa Barbara County Mental Health

Facility adds another eight temporary housing beds for people with mental health issues that don't rise to the level of hospitalization

Sheriff Bill Brown, Dr. Leslie Lundt, Laura Zeitz, Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf, ADMHS Director Alice Gleghorn, Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and Mary O’Gorman cut the ribbon outside the Crisis Stabilization Unit on Wednesday, which is located on that county’s campus at 305 Camino Del Remedio.
Sheriff Bill Brown, Dr. Leslie Lundt, Laura Zeitz, Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf, ADMHS Director Alice Gleghorn, Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and Mary O’Gorman cut the ribbon outside the Crisis Stabilization Unit on Wednesday, which is located on that county’s campus at 305 Camino Del Remedio. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Sometimes challenges yield creative solutions, and the opening of the Santa Barbara County’s new Crisis Stabilization Unit, a sort of “urgent care” for people in mental-health crisis, presented an example on Wednesday.

After the county won two important state grants last year, amounting to $2.7 million from the California Health Facilities Financing Authority, officials were faced with the challenge of using the money to create two facilities and a program expansion for people in mental-health crisis.

One of the facilities was the Crisis Stabilization Unit, where up to eight patients could stay for up to 23 hours while receiving treatment and medication from medical staff.

The system is designed to intervene with people earlier, to prevent them from getting to the mental-health-crisis stage where they end up in a local emergency room or another restrictive setting.

Still, constructing a new building was out of the question financially, so department officials, including psychiatric nurse Laura Zeitz, started thinking about alternatives.

It turns out the solution to the problem sat a stone’s throw away from the county’s existing psychiatric health facility at 315 Camino Del Remedio.

It was a underused building that contained some of the county’s IT department, and was filled with stacked computers and the like, Zeitz said.

Now, the 6,000-square-foot building, located at 305 Camino Del Remedio, has been transformed into a welcoming environment for people in mental-health crisis to spend some time and regain their footing.

Not everyone in mental-health crisis needs to be hospitalized or involuntarily taken to the county’s psychiatric health facility.

“It gives us another option,” Zeitz said Wednesday during the facility’s ribbon cutting and dedication. 

Most of the patients who show up at the CSU will be referred through one of the county’s mobile crisis teams. The unit will be staffed with one psychiatric nurse for every four patients, as well as social workers and peer specialists.

Those are people who have lived through mental illness and can share their experiences with those at the unit, said Alice Gleghorn, head of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Department. 

“They are people who have walked in those shoes and have achieved recovery,” she said.

A corner of the new Crisis Stabilization Unit has chairs that fold into beds for people staying at the center temporarily. Click to view larger
A corner of the new Crisis Stabilization Unit has chairs that fold into beds for people staying at the center temporarily. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Evening rounds will be done by a psychiatrist, and the unit also has the capability to do video psychiatric evaluations with doctors offsite.

There’s a place for patients to shower and do laundry if they need to, a kitchen and a television.

The unit also contains eight special chairs that fold down into beds for the person’s temporary stay, which last up to 23 hours.

Supervisor Janet Wolf, whose district includes the new unit, said the dedication of the new facility was an “extraordinary moment for the county.”

The opening of the crisis-stabilization unit is an important milestone in the county’s effort to address gaps in mental-health care.  

Just across Highway 101 from the county campus is another new residential unit with eight residential treatment beds.

That project, called La Morada Peer Respite House, opened in July with eight beds to house adults with mental-health challenges who do not require hospitalization. They may stay at the facility for up to 30 days.  

Wolf said that the new crisis-stabilization unit on the county's campus meets long-time, formerly unmet needs of people who are suffering in the community.

Gleghorn said that the new facility provides a less-restrictive alternative to hospitalization

“Its supposed to be warm and home-like,” she said. “It’s meant to be a place where people can be and get well.”

A crisis stabilization unit is also being explored in the North County, and Gleghorn said she would be presenting information to the Santa Maria Planning Commission about some of the options.

No single location has been chosen yet for that facility.

Dr. Leslie Lundt, medical director of the county’s psychiatric health facility, said that she and her staff see people in mental-health crisis all the time, “but not all of them need to be in the hospital.”

Having a place where people can calm down and be connected to other county services fills a great need for the community, she said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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