Thursday, July 19, 2007
$2 million not enough for crisis center
Consultant Gary Anderson apprised the board of supervisors in a recent meeting that the $2 million bond bill in the 2007 legislation won’t be enough to build a 16-bed crisis intervention center in Marshall County.
Anderson reported to the board, along with Rep. Kelvin Buck; David Anderson, director of State Building and Grounds; and Paul Callens, director of the state hospital in Tupelo.
Buck said the local delegation and county consultant are trying to determine how to proceed with the project and to find a location for the facility.
The county will have to donate five acres of land before the state will build the facility, director Anderson said. And it will take about $3.5 million to build. After a site is selected, the building is site adapted and construction estimates of infrastructure and other needs are surveyed, he said.
Callens explained how Mississippi Department of Mental Health operates regionally and how the satellite crisis centers work to serve mentally ill near their homes. So far six crisis intervention centers have been built to serve North Mississippi with the state hospital in Tupelo being the hub.
Callens said mental illness crises are addressed best early on. The duration of the first bout and any subsequent bouts is shortened if the illness is not left to linger, he said. And the time between bouts of illness are lengthened if the illness is treated early, he said.
“Some will have a single breakdown and no more problems,” he said. “Others may have repeat bouts of illness. If we address the issues sooner it will diminish the time patients are sick and it will lengthen the time they can live in the community.”
The Crisis Intervention Center works in the local community to treat patients who might be otherwise sent to jail for holding until a hospital bed is available, Callens said.
Crisis centers are located in Corinth, Batesville and Tupelo. Prior to the opening of several crisis intervention centers, patients had to wait for beds and treatment at the state hospital near Whitfield or in Meridian.
The regional crisis centers make it possible for the ill to be treated within 100 miles of home and allow for more family and community involvement. They are also affected, not just the client, Callens said.
The North Mississippi State Hospital in Tupelo has 50 beds, served 200 clients in the first six months of opening and nearly 5,000 patients to date have received service, he said.
“Crisis centers are to help address the issue at the point of psychiatric emergency, but we are presently using crisis centers to help with larger hospitals’ waiting lists,” Callens said. “This is the position we find ourselves in now.”
Supervisor George Zinn III asked if the center would be used to treat drug and alcohol dependency.
“No, but 60 to 70 percent of the diagnosed as mentally ill do have abuse problems with drugs or alcohol,” Callens said. “We have no A & D to offer, but Meridian and Whitfield have A & D rehabilitation.”
Those centers house A & D patients in separate facilities, he said.
Buck said the waiting time for processing clients often results in the mentally ill being held in county jails, where personnel are not trained to help the mentally ill.
“It costs the sheriff’s department money and time and they are not trained to deal with it,” he said. “This center has a $2 million line-item bond bill but the problem is that the cost of construction is increasing as planning goes on.”
Callens said the cost to operate one of the satellite centers is about $2.5 million a year and is not included in the construction bill.
“I think someone else could step in and operate it or Marshall County can decide whether to serve only Marshall or charge surrounding counties to have patients here,” Callens said.
The state requires the land be donated, the location be near a medical/surgical hospital, a good four-lane transportation system and that the center be located in a Level 3 or higher school system so the best employees can be attracted to work at the center. Employees want good schools for their children, he said. A 16-bed facility would employ about 50 workers who are nurses or mental health technicians, Callens said.
Buck said he and Anderson would go back to the Legislature for the $1.5 million additional bond money for construction.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said he doesn’t think the county should be involved in the operation of a mental health facility, but the county owns land that could be donated for one.
“Marshall County is scraping to get by to keep from raising taxes,” he said.
Callens said a recently constructed 15,000 square feet facility in Brookhaven cost $3.4 million to build, furnish and equip for communications.
Chancery Clerk Chuck Thomas asked whether the crisis center serves as a step-down from a hospital setting.
Callens said, no. The crisis center serves locally as a triage station and front line in the community. From there clients are stepped up to the hospital setting, he said, if hospitalization is needed to stabilize the client for a longer term stay.
Zinn asked what steps would be taken if funds were in hand to build the facility.
David Anderson said five acres would suffice, a site survey for utilities and roads would be made and the estimated cost to build to that site determined. The land would revert back to the donor if there was insufficient funds to build the center.
Callens said the five acres provides enough land to expand the facility for use as a side-by-side A & D treatment facility. The centers usually house either males or females and either adults or children, he said.
Buck asked who would be the point person with the county to keep the project moving. The board said it would likely be Thomas.
Thomas said he sees two or three commitment cases a week in Chancery Court, but finding a place to send clients for treatment is a problem.
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