The Crisis Stabilization Unit is designed as a welcoming place for people experiencing a mental health crisis | TheUnion.com

The Crisis Stabilization Unit is designed as a welcoming place for people experiencing a mental health crisis

Mental Health Urgent Care Center

Crisis Stabilization Unit

Crisis Line: 530-265-5811

Crisis Stabilization Unit: 530-470-2425

Clinic Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily for walk-ins

145 Glasson Way, Grass Valley, adjacent to the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.

Nevada County mental health professionals are eager to spread the word regarding a valuable, yet often under-utilized resource designed specifically for people experiencing a mental health crisis — or who find themselves in emotional distress.

Located inside the Mental Health Urgent Care Center, conveniently located next to Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, the Crisis Stabilization Unit, or CSU, has averaged roughly 2,000 overall assessments per year. In 2019, there were 286 crisis evaluations that resulted in clients staying at the CSU facility, with each averaging 21 hours.

“We serve about 50 to 80 crisis participants a month in an effort to reduce suicide and psychiatric hospitalizations in Nevada County,” said Todd Arvidson, general manager of crisis services. “We want to get the word out that this is a voluntary, safe place to come — no one feels trapped. However, it’s helpful that we are close to the ER should anyone have more urgent medical needs. The goal of Crisis Stabilization Unit is to keep individuals out of the hospital if at all possible.”

A GROWING NEED

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Since opening in August 2016, client numbers have almost doubled, said Arvidson, which is a sign that more people are learning of the center’s services. But that doesn’t mean everyone in Nevada County is getting the help they need.

Over the years, like many emergency departments around the country, the hospital has seen a marked increase in the number of patients arriving in need of mental health services. In the past, while physicians and behavioral health crisis professionals worked to meet their immediate needs, patients requiring more advanced psychiatric treatment were often forced to wait in the ER while the appropriate level of treatment facility was identified. Not only was the sterile, often chaotic environment not ideal for a person in mental distress, there were many instances where an individual could have avoided the costly and jarring experience of the ER with proper intervention. This is where the CSU comes in.

A component of The Mental Health Urgent Care Center, the four-bed CSU offers a calm, supportive and healing environment. Acting as an intermediary treatment facility, patients receive in-depth care while the staff determines if they may need to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital — or if they will respond well to local outpatient intervention services. Rooms are painted in blues and greens, with comfortable living room-like areas for family members to meet or wait.

People 18 and older can stay overnight if needed. Individuals can stay up to 24 hours in the safe, recovery-oriented atmosphere. During walk-in hours, which are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, both adults and children can receive an immediate evaluation and consultation by a Crisis Response Team member. This initial evaluation may include a list of proper interventions and referrals, and may include services at the CSU. After hours, all evaluations occur at the hospital’s emergency department.

“Before the CSU opened, it was hard seeing people stuck in the ER,” said registered nurse and CSU supervisor Sandy Farley. “It makes such a difference when they can be in such a warm, homey environment. A psychiatric hospital can be more risky — here is a safer option, where a person can hopefully be stabilized in his or her own community.”

FEATURES OF THE CSU

Services include a 24-hour, on-call psychiatrist, a full-time licensed nursing staff, a professional therapist to assist with all aspects of the mental health crisis, a clinical assessment of current needs with therapeutic interventions — including family and community support — and a recovery plan providing the next steps toward wellness.

If needed, services may also include assistance with placement at a psychiatric hospital and help with linking individuals to community resources, such as Granite Wellness Centers (which help those seeking substance abuse treatment), Hospitality House (for those who are homeless), therapists, the Veterans Administration, the Spirit Peer Empowerment Center (where peers support those with mental health challenges,) Community Beyond Violence (domestic violence) and others.

The Mental Health Urgent Care Center, which includes the CSU, is under contract with the Sierra Mental Wellness Group, a private, nonprofit corporation that began as a grass roots effort to respond to community counseling needs in Roseville in the late 1960s. Services have since grown as the population and complexity of the community have increased. They now provide rapid response to psychiatric emergencies in Nevada, Placer, Colusa and San Luis Obispo counties. Funding for the CSU comes from the county, provided through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), or Proposition 63, which was passed in 2004 as a means to support mental health programs in counties throughout California.

GETTING THE WORD OUT

The increase in volume at the CSU has been encouraging, and patient feedback has been positive — Arvidson claims they have never received a negative comment from a client since opening four years ago. Unfortunately, statistics have revealed that not all who need help are seeking it, and perhaps many don’t know there are welcoming, voluntary resources like the CSU, he added.

“Hospital visits have been significantly reduced and many crises can be maintained right here,” he said. “People can get an assessment and evaluation in the least restricted environment. We provide meals and a family room for visits — we’re also open to accommodating service animals. This is a safe place to come.”

“It’s important that we fight this stigma surrounding mental illness, and bring it out of the darkness,” said Farley. “It doesn’t discriminate — we see people from all walks of life. Up to 77% of those who come in every month are voluntary. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing a client become stabilized and watching them go out the door, knowing we’ve made a difference in someone’s life. It’s a privilege. I get hugs from former clients all around town. It’s very moving when they come up to me and say, ‘You helped me.’”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.


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