Kalamazoo

New Behavioral Health Care Center in Kalamazoo will help those in crisis and those helping them



 
For people in need of crisis care for mental health and substance abuse disorders will have a place to get directed treatment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year a solution is one step closer to being accomplished.
 
Integrated Services of Kalamazoo plans to have the area’s first Behavioral Health Urgent Care and Access Center up and running in downtown Kalamazoo in 2023.
 
Ground was broken on the 7,900-square-foot facility on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. It will use the former Acme Bedding Co. location at 440 W. Kalamazoo Ave., just west of Cooley Street.
 
“This Center will be equipped with 24 hours, seven-day-a-week mental health and substance use specialty supports and services for the majority of individuals served by Integrated Services of Kalamazoo to more appropriately address crisis needs in community-based settings that are less restrictive than other settings,” says Jeff Patton, chief executive officer of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo.
 
Jeff Patton is chief executive officer of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo.He says ISK expects a coordinated and comprehensive behavioral health urgent care and access system will reduce the need to have law enforcement and emergency medical services intervene in mental health crises. It should also decrease what he described as “medically unnecessary hospital emergency department use, and the need for police to detain people experiencing mental health crises.”
 
The freestanding Behavioral Health Urgent Care and Access Center is expected to have nine treatment rooms, waiting rooms, a lobby, a reception area, a conference room, and a security office. It will also have a police/ambulance entrance. The $5 million project is being funded primarily by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act awarded by Kalamazoo County.
 
ISK estimates that about 68 percent of the area’s crisis calls could be resolved without involving hospital emergency departments.
 
“We get ‘out-of-control’ calls every single day,” says Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller. He explains they “could be easily someone who is on a medication that is a maintenance drug. And it helps them to stay calm or to not become upset about something. But for whatever reason, they’ve been off that medication and the family is calling us.”
 
Officers often learn the person has not been taking his medications, Fuller says, “or maybe they’ve introduced a narcotic or some other drug to use instead of the maintenance medications that are designed for their mental health condition.”
 
“What happens is those people are no longer in the right zone for their medication and the family has no idea what to do for them,” Fuller says. “And so now law enforcement is there and sometimes things can go bad. Often they don’t. But often the person either ends up in jail for an action they have committed during this time, or they end up in an ER room being committed by a police officer because of the actions observed by the police officer.”
 
An artist's rendering of the 7,900-square-foot Behavioral Health Urgent Care and Access Center. Fuller says officers hope families will come to recognize and use the new urgent care center before their loved one or friend has a major crisis.

Dianne Shaffer Dianne Shaffer, senior executive for Policy, Planning, and Innovation at ISK, says she expects the center to make trauma-informed care more readily available to people in need “and hopefully culturally-responsive services that will help with the connection to ongoing mental health or substance use services.” Referring to ISK staff, she said, “So we are working with all of our county law enforcement agencies, which is really exciting. And we’re making a lot of headway in being able to serve individuals better in our community.”

Fuller was among law enforcement officers at the groundbreaking. Others include representatives from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and the Portage Department of Public Safety. They were among about 75 project supporters, mental health professionals, service providers, and civic officials. Healthcare leaders in attendance included Bill Manns, president and CEO of Bronson Healthcare, and Dr. Thomas Rohs, president and CEO of Ascension Michigan’s southwest region, including Ascension Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo.
 
Behavioral health urgent care is a service for people who are in crisis and need to be seen immediately, Patton says. “Whether they have mental health problems or substance abuse problems. If they need to be seen immediately, they don’t have to wait until 8 o’clock in the morning to be seen.”
 
This is an artist's rendering of the exterior of the planned $5 million Behavioral Health Urgent Care and Access Center. He says people who are in major crisis or experiencing an emergency are seen at any time of day. But he says, “This will be open to work with people, to observe their conditions, and then to get them into services.”
 
“I think people have not been able to get what we call same-day access (to services),’ he says, “because we’ve been pretty much 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We do emergencies seven days a week. But to come in and get an appointment, now they don’t necessarily have to schedule an appointment. And then people who are in crisis, we can serve them. Generally, they go to the emergency department. But now we can divert some folks from the emergency departments.”
 
Patton says the facility will be able to help people who have a combination of problems (co-occurring substance abuse disorders and mental illness) as well as those without mental illness who have a substance abuse problem.
 
Jeff Patton, CEO of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, speaks on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, at the groundbreaking ceremony for ISK's Behavioral Health Urgent Care and Access Center.Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson says, “This provides a more publicly available, 365-days-per-year, seven-days-a-week access to mental health urgent care, which is now only available through our emergency departments. And anybody who’s been to the emergency departments lately, you know how busy that is. So this is going to hopefully help emergency departments. It’s going to give our public safety officers another place to drop people off and it’s going to give people access to our mental health system in a broad array.”
 
Anderson is involved with the project through his full-time work as director of housing facilities for ISK.
 
Patton says the facility will be staffed around the clock. But he says it has not yet been determined how many workers that will require. He says the idea for the urgent care center came from the ISK staff as the organization looked to expand its downtown facilities along West Kalamazoo Avenue, on the opposite side of Cooley Street.
 
Its building there provides services for youth and families, as well as adults with mental health challenges, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. It is one of four ISK locations in Kalamazoo, which has provided those services for more than 30 years along with services to help people with substance use disorders. The organization, which was formerly known as Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, serves about 8,000 individuals annually through service programs it operates and through a network of contracted provider agencies. More information about ISK is available at here or here or by calling 269-373-6000.
 
Of the new urgent care center, Fuller says, “This solves a real problem when it comes to law enforcement having few options in how to address an issue that somebody’s having when it comes to mental health concerns in the middle of the night. We know there are a lot of urgent mental health concerns that are overlooked or under-addressed by people either not handling them or handling them inappropriately. And so what we want as law enforcement professionals is a place where pros are there, we can take somebody (there), or we can guide families there.”
 
Patton says, “We’re seeing so many people. It’s one thing to be able to talk to people over the phone. But it’s another thing to see them in the (hospitals’) emergency departments. Some of these people don’t need to be in the emergency department. We can just have them brought here. We can observe them and we can make a professional decision on what happens next.”

 

Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.