MISSOULA Missoulans experiencing a mental health crisis have someone to call 988 someone to show up for a mobile support team and will soon have a place to go as a new crisis drop-in center opens later this month.
When renovations are complete in late November, the 16-bed Riverwalk Crisis Center will be open 24/7, providing adults experiencing mental health crises with short-term assessment, treatment and connections to resources.
The Montana Free Press reports that dozens of people from local governments, nonprofits and medical and mental health organizations recently filled the renovated building on Wyoming Street to celebrate its upcoming opening, more than three years in the making.
It’s a great thing to be here right now, Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick told the crowd. No one can do it alone. This is proof of what happens when we come together.
Missoula County worked with Western Montana Mental Health, Providence Montana and a coalition of other organizations to open the center and fill a gap in behavioral health services, said Colleen Rudio, Western’s interim executive director.
It is a real honor to all who have worked hard to create this space and which will fill it with those who need care, support and respect, she said.
While Missoula has a mobile support team to respond to crisis calls, those individuals often need a place to go, not jail or the emergency room, Slotnick said.
At Providence St. Hospital. Patrick, about 30% of avoidable emergency room stays are related to behavioral health, Jeremy Williams, director of psychiatric services, told the Montana Free Press last week.
Many people struggle to navigate the fragmented mental health system and face long waiting lists to see a doctor or therapist, Williams said. Riverwalk will provide evaluations, therapy, peer support, crisis observation, medication prescriptions and connections to ongoing support. Staff will connect clients with services such as health insurance, substance use treatment or counseling and refer them to other resources, Williams said.
The center will have a soft opening, with police and a mobile support team bringing in the first clients, said Ann Douglas, Riverwalk manager. Once fully operational, people can walk into the center for help.
Clients can stay up to 24 hours at Riverwalk, located on the campus of the Western Montana Mental Health Center. People under the influence of drugs or alcohol can receive services as long as they are medically stable.
The center has a space for clients to meet with family and practice spiritual or cultural practices, Williams said. Providence and Western worked with people experienced in navigating mental health services to design the center to have a healing, gender- and culturally affirming environment, he said.
Douglas said she is excited for the center to open and to meet people in crisis at the level they are at.
“I think it’s something Missoula needs, the next level of care, and something the community has been asking for,” she said.
The need for a crisis intake center was identified in a gap analysis commissioned four years ago by the Missoula Strategic Alliance for Behavioral Health Improvement, Williams told MTFP. The study looked at what mental health resources Missoula lacks and found that a crisis center could help about 20 people each day stabilize, plan for safety and connect with other services, he said.
Members of the strategic alliance decided to have the county, the Western Montana Mental Health Center and Providence lead the crisis center project, Williams said. After difficulty finding a site for the center, Western proposed renovating the former treatment building.
Missoula County contributed about $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and about $500,000 in other funding to help cover start-up costs. The center will bill Medicaid and insurance, but clients can receive services regardless of insurance coverage, Williams said.
Western will hire therapists, peer support, care coordinators, nurses, crisis stabilization workers and security. Riverwalk’s manager, Douglas, is employed by Providence Montana, which received a grant from the Providence Well Being Trust to pay for the first year of her salary, Williams said. The advisory council will help guide the center and ensure it meets its goals, he said.
It’s going to be a unique situation, but it’s been so hard for me right now when we’re trying to stand up as a community to just look at one organization and say, ‘You take this on,'” he said. It really takes a lot of collaboration to make sure we’re doing the best thing in our community and managing the risk that comes with these things.
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