GRAND RAPIDS — Mercy Health and behavioral health care provider Network180 plan to open a crisis center next year in Grand Rapids for people who need immediate care.
The Behavioral Health Crisis Center planned in an existing medical office building at the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s hospital campus near downtown will include a 24-hour, walk-in Crisis Stabilization Unit where people in a mental health crisis can access intensive treatment.
Under the public-private partnership between the two, Mercy Health will provide medical services and Network 180 behavioral health care.
“Having a full range of crisis services is a necessity for our community, and the Behavioral Health Crisis Center represents an essential piece,” Dr. Matt Biersack, president of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, said in a statement. “This partnership leverages the strengths of Network180 and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to provide comprehensive services for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis.”
Targeted to open by late 2022, the center would provide another outlet locally for people to access mental health care when experiencing symptoms of depression, substance use disorder, suicidal thoughts, bipolar and other issues.
Quite often, somebody in a mental health crisis seeks help in a hospital emergency room that’s not fully equipped or staffed to handle their condition, resulting in delays in their treatment.
The Behavioral Health Crisis Center would provide a treatment center for individuals seeking help, a place for hospitals to refer or transfer behavioral health patients who go to an ER for help, or for police officers to transport people they encounter who need mental health care.
“If you’re having contact with law enforcement or you show up in the emergency room, there’s not great options for those individuals,” Network180 Executive Director Bill Ward told MiBiz. “Someone who’s in a behavioral health crisis does not need to get booked into jail. Too often that happens.”
Ward expects the new center could have contact with up to 6,000 people a year.
As demand for mental health care has increased for years, care providers have sought to add capacity.
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services opened an urgent care center in 2019 at its Cutlerville campus and early on in the pandemic added an urgent care telehealth service. MiBiz in October detailed mental health care services now offered in the ERs at Holland Hospital and Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital to assess and treat patients, or refer them to the proper setting.
The planned Behavioral Health Crisis Center came out of a planning process that started with a consortium formed in 2019 that includes Network 180 local health systems, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Hope Network and Forest View Hospital. Recommendations resulting from a needs assessment the group commissioned and community forums led to “pretty significant, robust recommendations on how we could improve the overall crisis response to the community,” Ward said.
Along with the Behavioral Health Crisis Center, a mobile crisis response unit that works with law enforcement, sobering centers and a respite center are in the works for “meeting the needs of the community based on the individual crises going on,” Ward said.
That need for greater access to mental health care has accelerated in the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls to Network 180 for crisis interventions have increased 30 percent in the pandemic, Ward said.
“This is a real need that we have and it’s going to be something that we’re going to be dealing with for years to come,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work to get us to where we’re at and we still have a lot of work to do to get this thing up and running. But we have some really good momentum and to see this public-private partnership come together is pretty amazing.”
The center follows a new state law early this year that created a licensing process and allows for the opening of mental health crisis stabilization units to assess and treat patients. Patients could remain in the units for up to 72 hours before they are discharged or transferred.
Ward said he is aware of three or four other crisis stabilization units in the state that are in the planning stages through a public-private partnership.
“I think you’re going to see several replications of this across the state,” he said. “You’re going to see these types of settings pop up all over the state because it’s a real need.”