District 3 Commissioner Shannon Reynolds voted no.
At its Sept. 14 meeting, the Doña Ana County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 to authorize the county manager to amend the county’s contract with Recovery Innovations International, the company operating the crisis facility, to include mobile services for a maximum amount of $150,000.
Since the end of June, County Health and Human Services Director Jamie Michael told the commission, the center has been open to treat people experiencing mental health or substance use crises. People in crisis can either walk in to the center or be brought there by family, friends or law enforcement. They’re evaluated and stabilized, in stays that can last about a day or less, before being connected with local outpatient services and resources.
Michael said RII already has a vehicle it will use for the mobile services. Initially, the center’s existing clinical staff will assess guests brought in by the mobile team, she said, because of a shortage of clinical staff in the community.
More:Meet the directors of the Doña Ana County Crisis Triage Center
The center is expected to hire new non-clinical staff for the mobile services. Michael said two people at a time will staff a mobile team, one of whom is expected to be a peer support worker.
The goal is for the mobile services to have dedicated clinicians by next July, Michael said, so a clinician is staffing the team at all hours and is able to go out on mobile visits.
But in the meantime “there’s enough capacity with the staff that already exists within the triage center” to assess guests brought in, Michael said.
The possibility for future mobile crisis services was included in the initial contract with RII passed by the commission in August 2020. “Once the (center) is operational, (RII) shall work with the County and other stakeholders to determine if mobile crisis services are needed and if there is an advantage to include mobile crisis as part of the (center),” the contract reads.
During the meeting, Michael told commissioners the center was currently averaging a couple of patients each day, but the “trend is increasing.” She said the average length of stay was six hours. More:Meet the directors of the Doña Ana County Crisis Triage Center
Reynolds told the Sun-News he voted no because the patient numbers referenced by Michael didn’t justify the center itself, let alone the expansion. He said the county should only expand the services when the center proves its business model is successful. “We are ready to begin expanding,” Michael said. “This is not only going to support the crisis triage center and its mission to keep people out of the emergency department and out of the jail, but it’s also going to help us prepare for the full implementation of the national 988 system.”
Beginning in July 2022, dialing 988 will connect Americans to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, following the adoption of rules in July 2020 by the Federal Communications Commission. Once the system is in place, Michael said the goal is to have the center’s mobile team dispatched to 988 callers. Before that occurs, Michael said the center is looking at setting up a dedicated phone line that local law enforcement and social services organizations can call for mobile team dispatch.
The HHS director also said the mobile team may pick up patients from local hospital emergency departments who still need some treatment. Michael said RII’s proposal conformed to a state plan for a comprehensive behavioral health crisis care system.