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Community takes steps to address mental health crisis

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Beds for psychiatric stabilization, with coordinated transport capacity, are a priority among the individuals and agencies tasked with addressing mental health needs in Delta County.

Law enforcement, health and human services, advocacy groups, mental health, the hospital, the school district and others have joined together to develop a collaborative approach to behavioral health care.

"No one entity owns this issue," said John VanDenBerg, a psychologist who is serving as volunteer facilitator for the entities that are working on the front lines of behavioral and mental health issues in Delta County.

Months of planning, stakeholder interviews and small group discussions have evolved into a system of care plan, an overall roadmap for what the behavioral health system in Delta County will look like.

Other priorities, outlined during a follow-up meeting with community partners, include:

• Mobile crisis services team, in homes, at the emergency room and in schools.

• Outreach support capacity to individuals who are frequent consumers of emergency resources.

• Design and implementation of an enhanced method of dealing with detox and stabilization at the jail.

• Therapists available in all schools.

There's no question Delta County has a behavioral health crisis -- dispatch logged over 12,000 behavioral health-related calls to law enforcement in a calendar year. These calls include welfare checks, suicide attempts, domestic violence, incidents stemming from alcohol/substance abuse and mental health contacts. Behavioral health crises are involved in at least 50 percent of emergency room admissions. The jail is being used for detox and stabilization, without adequate funds, training and follow-up. And, statistical data indicates that in rural counties of our size, at least half the residents with behavioral health needs are untreated.

VanDenBerg noted Delta County has made some strides in recent years, with the expansion of mental health services, integration of behavioral health professionals into medical facilities, and more counselors/behavioral health professionals in the schools.

The fact that so many agencies are collaborating on this model is also noteworthy.

The follow-up meeting resulted in a vision and mission for the system of care model, a structure for that model, and a decision to continue monthly meetings as the group develops cohesiveness. A staff member from the Center for Mental Health volunteered to coordinate those meetings. The first will be held in September.

To address immediate needs, the group will institute a method of identifying frequent users, then follow up with those individuals and/or their families to develop a wraparound system of service and support.

"If we can work together, we will be stronger and we will be able to bring more resources into the county," VanDenBerg said.

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