Health

Mar 23, 2013 6:42 PM by Eric Ross

$4.5M development for Okla. mental health agency

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Family & Children's Services has taken a $4.5 million step to salvage a state grant and implement programs to expand mental health services in the Tulsa area.

The agency had partnered with Hillcrest Medical Center in August 2012 to secure a $1.5 million grant from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, with the option to renew through 2018 at $2.2 million a year.

Through the partnership, the agency was to create a 23-hour crisis intervention unit and Hillcrest would provide 16 permanent psychiatric beds for longer-term care, said Family & Children's spokeswoman Tina Wells.

However, before the agency could close on the property that would house the 23-hour unit, Wells said, Hillcrest officials said they could no longer commit to supplying the beds.

Angela Peterson, Hillcrest manager of marketing and public information, told the Tulsa World that the plan was to house the beds in its Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services Unit at the Oklahoma State University Medical Center, but its lease there expires in 2014.

She said that officials looked elsewhere within Hillcrest Medical Center, but it would be cost-prohibitive to retrofit any current units into a behavioral health unit.

Without the additional beds, Family & Children's Services would lose the grant.

After attempts to find a new hospital partner were unsuccessful, Wells said, the Family & Children's Service's board of directors voted unanimously to provide reserve funding to open a community-based, structured crisis center in addition to its planned 23-hour crisis unit.

The crisis unit and the additional psychiatric beds are an effort to reduce the time and cost of police officers having to transport patients to open psychiatric beds sometimes as far away as the Panhandle.

"Last year, local law enforcement agencies transported hundreds of Tulsa-area residents across Oklahoma in the back of police cruisers because there were no available psychiatric beds here. People already in a fragile state were further traumatized and pulled away from any supports they may have had in the community. It's an unacceptable situation, and Family & Children's Services is committed to helping change it," said Gail Lapidus, CEO with Family & Children's Services. "We hope and expect that Tulsa's health-care community will join us in embracing this cause, and that the state will consider extra funding to help close the wide treatment gap."

The 23-hour crisis unit will be a place people can go or be dropped off and receive treatment and observation to determine if longer care is needed. If so, they would be moved to the structured crisis center. Or if it is determined that longer-term care isn't necessary, they can be released.

The crisis center will be operated by the state and Family & Children's Services, and will provide short-term, non-hospital inpatient care to help stabilize individuals in a mental health crisis, Wells said.

Patients may be treated for a period of three to five days.

The agency plans to spend $4 million in reserve funding to purchase and renovate a building to house both the crisis center and the 23-hour center and is still in negotiations with the property owners, Wells said.

The board also allocated $500,000 in reserve money to cover projected first-year operating losses from the crisis center.

"Losing state funding would have been devastating for our community and the well-being and safety of those with mental illness," Lapidus said. "I applaud our board of directors for their courage, their dedication to our agency's mission and their commitment to make the right decisions and act in the best interest of the public."

Peterson said that Hillcrest remains dedicated to providing mental health care to the community.

"Hillcrest continues to offer adult, adolescent and pediatric behavioral health services in Tulsa and geriatric behavioral health care in many of our regional facilities," she said.

Wells said that the crisis center should be open by late summer or early fall after renovations are complete and that a soft opening for the 23-hour crisis unit could happen within the next month.

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