The Crisis Solutions Center, a 46-bed treatment center, opened last week to address the needs of people experiencing a mental health emergency.
King County undertook the $6.1 million transformation of a former cheesecake factory on South Lane Street and 16th Avenue South to fill a gaping hole in the services for mentally ill.
With no place to take those experiencing a mental health episode, police officers ended up taking them to emergency rooms or, in the case of those behaving badly, to jail, “a very expensive way of dealing with someone in crisis,” said Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center (desc), which operates the center.
A grid of low-walled cubicles, each with a bed and end table, now fills the building where desserts were once made.
The center has 16 beds set aside to give people 72 hours to come down from a mental health episode. Another 30 beds will house homeless patients who need extra time to figure out their long-term treatment plans and set up referrals to mental health and housing services.
Demand for such a facility is on the rise. In April, King County held more than 40 people in hospitals and emergency rooms because there were no beds for psychiatric treatment available.
By summertime, the county had already boarded more than 1,000 people.
Those who were involuntarily detained in emergency rooms or in-patient beds for 72 hours were discharged with little or no follow-up treatment.
As of Aug. 6, when The Crisis Solutions Center opened, there were still 16 people being boarded at hospitals in King County.
Amnon Shoenfeld, King County’s director of mental health services, said the facility should save the county money but couldn’t say how much.
“If you intervene early enough in the crisis, get them the help they need, it will keep them from going deeper into crisis,” Shoenfeld said.
The county paid for the facility with the $45 million it collects every year through a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax to fund mental health and chemical dependency services. The tax will pay for the 75 people who keep the center staffed 24 hours a day, at least until 2016. By then, voters will decide whether to renew the tax.
The center opened after a lengthy public process that drew neighbors worried about public safety in the area. King County and desc signed a good-neighbor agreement that requires staff to notify neighbors if there are any public safety problems or changes in how the center operates.