03/01/07 — Eastpointe director seeks approval of proposal for mobile crisis unit

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Eastpointe director seeks approval of proposal for mobile crisis unit

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 1, 2007 1:47 PM

Eastpointe Director Ken Jones will send a plan today to the state Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse services that calls for the creation of a 24-hour mobile crisis team.

Eastpointe manages care for people in Wayne, Duplin, Lenoir and Sampson counties who need help with mental health, developmental disabilities or addictions. Changes in the system have resulted in more addicts and mental patients in crisis showing up in the jails and hospital emergency rooms.

Jones said he wants to find ways to prevent these emergencies, but the mobile crisis team would help in the meantime. The mobile crisis team of private providers would go directly to the client when Eastpointe receives a call from an "stakeholder"agency, such as a police department, school or hospital.

"This team addresses many of the issues the stakeholders had," Jones said about public forums held recently throughout the four counties. Concerns most mentioned included people with addictions not getting the treatment they need, people in need not knowing how to get help, a lack of alternatives to the state psychiatric hospitals and speedier access to treatment, especially in emergencies.

The mobile crisis team should address many of the issues raised at the stakeholder meetings, Jones said.

For example, many homeless people have mental problems or addictions. Under the plan, Eastpointe would pay for in-patient bed days when the mobile crisis team refers an indigent client to a place such as Wayne Memorial Hospital.

The hospitals in the communities have been referring these patients in crisis to places like Cherry Hospital. But Cherry and all of the state psychiatric hospitals have had more admissions than they're prepared to serve. The lengths of stay are shorter now, but the clients are returning more often. State officials, in an effort to cut down on the overcrowding, have notified Eastpointe that places like Wayne Memorial and Duplin General hospitals can't send any more admissions until somebody leaves once Cherry's patient population reaches 110 percent.

Jones plans to spend the next three years finding ways to make sure clients and those who refer them, like hospitals, the schools and law enforcement agencies, know how to get their patients, students and detainees access to the mental health system.

Mental health reform took on a life of its own last March," he said. "We divested services to the providers. Everything is new to all who are involved. And we're still in transition."

While the old style mental health departments could keep track of everyone receiving help, Jones said clients now can go straight to Medicaid providers without Eastpointe ever knowing. For example, most school children in the mental health system are likely receiving Medicaid or Health Choice type of insurance, he said. Medicaid covers some things. Insurance companies cover some things, and Eastpointe covers some things the others don't.

Many families are having trouble maneuvering through the system, said Allison Pridgen, director of Student Support Services for the Wayne County Public Schools. "This ultimately impacts the children and the educational process," she said. "It's no different than having the flu. Sick is sick, regardless of the agent."