Region gets $5M in federal funds to bolster mental health crisis services

The state of Ohio this week awarded more than $5 million in grants from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help communities across southwest Ohio improve crisis mental health care.

A combined project between the mental health boards overseeing Clark, Greene, Madison, Preble, Warren, Clinton, Brown and Clermont was awarded $3,977,400 to create a “step-up-step-down facility” designed to treat and house individuals in need of stabilization in a location that has not yet been finalized.

A separate $500,000 ARPA grant received by the Darke, Miami and Shelby mental health services board will help create a similar facility in that region.

Another $559,000 grant will pave the way for Champaign and Logan counties to send mental health professionals alongside police officers when responding to behavioral health crises, starting later this year. Local officials there say they are adopting an approach to meet unique needs in rural communities.

Colleen Chamberlain, executive director of the Warren-Clinton Mental Health Recovery Board, said the eight-county grant will create a 16-bed facility that can treat and house individuals for up to 90 days. She said the facility will be for folks who are coming out of the hospital for psychiatric reasons but are not quite ready to reintegrate into the community and folks who are in need of crisis stabilization but not quite hospitalization.

Chamberlain said that this type of facility has been an identified need across southwest Ohio.

“Some other boards were in the position where they could do that (project) on their own, but (us) not being an urban center, we have to join with partners in order to have enough volume and need in order for us to be able to do it,” Chamberlain said.

Miami, Darke counties

Brad Reed, spokesperson for the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services, said that their facility will help the area limit mental health hospitalizations.

“If someone needs full time care but not rising to the level of hospitalization, that’s really what we’re looking at here. It’s kind of a two way street. One, it’s to prevent people from being hospitalized when they don’t necessarily need that level of care but there’s no other option, and second is to enable people to be dismissed from hospitals when they’re ready to be dismissed but maybe not ready to live entirely on their own again,” Reed said.

Reed said the official site of the facility has not been finalized, but it will likely have eight to 12 beds. He said opening the facility quickly will be a priority for the board, but offered no exact timetable.

“This is a great opportunity for our area and I think it’s going to be well received and well-used service when we get it up and running,” he said.

Rural Champaign county approach

In Local and Champaign counties, the bi-county co-responder program is one of three local mental health projects to receive federal funding, as determined by the state’s mental health board, in an effort to address local gaps in mental health care. Locally, the program will be followed by two “step-up step-down” facilities .

The co-responder program will be the first of its kind for the rural counties of Champaign and Logan, according to Adam Sorensen, executive director of the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Service Board of Logan and Champaign Counties. He said this version of a co-response program, designed to function in rural communities, will look different than more robust co-response programs in denser areas, which can create entire teams of mental health professionals to respond to crises.

“This is one that a rural community could pull off. You have variables that you don’t have in cities, such as distance between calls, frequency of calls, and who your target population is that’s calling; we’ve got that all dialed in,” Sorensaid said. “We know what to expect, we know where to expect it and we know when to expect it. It’s just a matter of connecting folks with the proper kind of care and then being able to follow up with them long-term.”

Most of the $559,250 grant will go toward personnel. The program consists of six mental health professionals who will aid the counties’ 11 various police departments when responding to behavioral health crises. Funding will also go toward two clinician supervisors who will oversee the program. The co-response team will be activated on the discretion of the dispatcher, who Sorensen said have all been trained to recognize when a caller is reporting or experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

Sorensen said co-responder teams, if done right, can greatly reduce the frequency in which a department has to deploy emergency services in behavioral health scenarios.

Responders will be responsible for helping with de-escalation and safety planning before connecting the individual in crisis with local organizations that could help address the individual’s need, when applicable. The responder will also be tasked with following up with the patient after they’ve been referred.

According to Sorensen, a co-response program has been an identified need in Champaign and Logan counties for a long time, but the bi-county board has lacked the funding to implement it.

“We know what to do, we know what we’ve wanted for a long time, it’s just that this has been unfunded, so we finally got some funding for it and now it’s time to roll it out,” he said.

Sorensen said he fully expects the program to be a success and will look to the state to help fund it into the future.

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