12/29/05 — Crisis center helps serve mental health needs in 4 counties

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Crisis center helps serve mental health needs in 4 counties

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 29, 2005 1:49 PM

A new mental health crisis center in Wallace that serves Duplin, Wayne, Sampson and Lenoir counties is already proving a benefit to clients from around the area, said mental health officials.

Jack St. Clair, the former director of Eastpointe, which provides mental health services to the four counties and operates the center, reflected on the changes in mental health services.

Jack St. Clair

Jack St. Clair

St. Clair resigned his post to accept the job of director of Cherry Hospital. The Eastpointe board of directors chose finance officer Ken Jones to serve as acting director.

St. Clair said revised laws have created a great deal of confusion among people seeking mental health services.

But the opening of the crisis center in October has given people in the four-county region a place to turn to in difficult times, he said. Any resident of the four counties can call the Eastpointe crisis number at 800-513-4002 and reach the center and its staff.

The six-bed facility is similar to a group home, said Anna North, the quality improvement director in Eastpointe's Beulaville office.

It gives people in crisis a place to go, she said. Many people in need of help previously wound up in a hospital emergency room, she said, which often wasn't equipped to help them.

The center is the first of its kind in eastern North Carolina, Ms. North said. She described it as a "safety net" for people in need of mental health services, such as counseling or rehabilitation.

Clients may stay at the center for as long as two weeks. Residence is strictly voluntary, Ms. North said. That is the maximum number of days that Medicaid will pay for emergency care, she said. The average stay at such a center is four or five days, she added.

St. Clair said the center is something he had wanted to see created for a long time. With the changes in services it only became more needed, he said. Doors will not be locked to keep anybody inside. The residents will only be allowed to stay as many as 14 days. Ms. North said 14 days is the maximum number of days Medicaid will reimburse the center.

"I was dreaming about this two years," he said. "I'm real tickled about it."