We live in an age of fear of mental health crises; when movie goers may feel compelled to scan the audience before taking a seat, and a Senator files a wrongful death suit against his state to ensure that his personal tragedy is not repeated. The fact is, as the DHHS states, only 3-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness (SMI), and those with SMI are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than the general population.
What people don’t know is that all too often those seeking help for a mental health crisis suffer for hours and even days awaiting treatment in hospital emergency rooms, as was the case for Senator Creigh Deed’s son. We created this video because we want the people of Arizona to know that this state has specifically trained and accessible behavioral health providers who immediately respond to those in crisis, and we’re working hard (and in concert) to ensure these services to all Arizonans.
The idea for the video sprang from my work as a co-lead for the Crisis Now initiative alongside Dr. Mike Hogan in partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The video showcases multiple nonprofit behavioral health providers in Arizona who have no formal business affiliations. In the for-profit world we would be considered competitors, but when you’re in the “business” of saving lives, that sort of thinking goes out the window. These providers share an extremely important, life-saving and society-improving purpose, and we wanted to shine a light on the innovations in crisis services occurring right now in facilities across Arizona.
Unprecedented Community Partnerships
Dr. Margie Balfour, a nationally recognized expert in crisis services, is with ConnectionsAZ, a physician-owned organization providing facility-based crisis services in metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson. She is the Chief Clinical Officer at the Crisis Response Center (CRC) in Tucson, which is featured in the video.
“Emergency rooms and jails are not equipped, and people with behavioral health needs can languish there for hours or even days without treatment,” says Dr. Balfour. “People need to get to a safe and secure environment where they can quickly get in front of behavioral health professionals who can provide them with the help they need.”
Located within the Banner University Medical Center South Campus, the CRC was built with Pima County bond funds in order to create an alternative to jails and hospital emergency rooms and provides emergency psychiatric care to 12,000 adults and 2,400 children annually. “We work with mobile crisis services, EMTs, and law enforcement, and together we’re able to serve thousands of individuals brought directly to our crisis centers so that they get help need immediately. With rapid assessment and stabilization, over 60% of patients who would otherwise board in an ER or jail to are able to instead transition to less-restrictive and less-costly community-based care.”
Community Bridges Inc. (CBI), headquartered in Mesa, delivers services in 15 cities throughout Arizona, including many rural areas. It’s President and CEO Dr. Frank Scarpati, said he wholeheartedly agrees with Dr. Balfour, and adds that 12 key law enforcement leaders serve on CBI’s Board of Directors.
According to Dr. Scarpati, “Each year, our five facility-based Crisis Stabilization Units accept 40,000-50,000 entries, while our CBI Crisis Response Teams divert more than 4,000 individuals out of hospital ERs, 1,400 are diverted by police and 1,500 by Fire Departments directly to CBI facilities, saving our communities millions of dollars and creating additional capacity in our hospitals by freeing up bed space and decreasing wait times.”
Mobile Crisis Teams Travel to Those in Need (Avoids Hospital ER)
Also featured in the video is La Frontera EMPACT’s program located in Tempe, Arizona. Founded in 1987, Emergency Mobile Pediatric & Adolescent Crisis Teams – Suicide Prevention Center (EMPACT-SPC), provides suicide prevention, crisis intervention, counseling, substance abuse, trauma healing, and prevention programming to individuals and families in Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Its crisis teams are dispatched and respond immediately to an individual when and wherever the individual is located at the time of the crisis, whether that be the street, jail, social service agency, or an apartment or home.
Crisis Call Centers Conduct the Orchestra
The services of the Crisis Response Network (CRN) in Tempe which support Central and Northern Arizona and Centene’s Nursewise Call Center in Tucson are also highlighted in the video. Both organizations provide clinical professionals using high-tech tools to coordinate care, track data and provide evidence of measured outcomes.
CRN provides crisis contact center services 24/7/365, 24-hour peer-operated warm line, Serious Mental Illness (SMI) determinations, telephonic follow up, tragedy support, specialized crisis lines, and dispatch services for mobile crisis teams, crisis transportation, Department of Child Services (DCS) rapid response and stabilization services. NurseWise’s Behavioral Health Professionals, Behavioral Health Technicians and Registered Nurses assist consumers with acute behavioral health and physical health symptoms, 24/7, including scheduling intake appointments and dispatching mobile crisis teams to provide in-home or in-office assessment and support.
Peer Supports and Trauma Informed
RI International, headquartered in Phoenix is a global organization offering crisis, health, recovery and consulting services through 50+ programs located throughout the U.S. and abroad. RI Crisis has been rapidly expanding, adding four additional crisis facilities this year to its array of Recovery Response Centers (for crisis stabilization), Evaluation and Treatment Centers (for involuntary and court-ordered treatment) and Crisis Respites (voluntary longer-term treatment). RI is well-known for its “living room model” of care, which focuses on providing peer-support, meaning staff with lived experience work alongside clinicians.
We work to make our facilities feel more like a comfortable living room or resort, rather than an institution. Our staff is not separated from guests by Plexiglas. We do this to help lessen stigma and provide healing spaces, welcoming environments conducive to de-escalation. Last year in our Arizona crisis stabilization programs we diverted more than 3,000 individuations with a mental health crisis away from costly hospital visits, never refusing a law-enforcement drop-off.
“Crisis Now: What Makes Arizona Different” video was produced by David Shapiro Enterprises, and will officially premiere at the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) 50th annual conference next spring in Phoenix, but will be shared publicly via social media in early 2017. And, I’d like to thank Rabideau Consulting for their national leadership and role in initially bringing the stakeholders together leading to the video.