09/29/08 — Eastpointe will launch two mobile mental health crisis teams here

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Eastpointe will launch two mobile mental health crisis teams here

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 29, 2008 1:32 PM

In a move that was expected, but one that couldn't have come at a better time, Eastpointe announced last week that it has received funds from the state for the creation of two new mobile crisis management teams.

The one-time funds, totaling $200,000, will be used to start two new units to respond to emergency mental health situations. They will cover the traditional Eastpointe catchment area of Wayne, Duplin, Sampson and Lenoir counties, as well as Onslow and Carteret.

"It is a large area for two mobile crisis teams, and there could be a night in which you have as many as six different emergencies going on at the same time, but that normally doesn't happen," said Eastpointe Director Ken Jones.

But, he added, while more teams are needed, at least Eastpointe now has a way to respond to those emergency calls.

He explained that the point of the teams is to offer an alternative to going to the hospital when somebody is in crisis after regular business hours.

"Between 8 (a.m.) and 5 (p.m.) we've got a good plan for where people are supposed to go," Jones said.

After hours, however, is when people in crisis -- primarily those who are a threat to hurt themselves or others -- have been directed to local hospitals and then often to Cherry Hospital.

And while curtailing the number of unnecessary admittances is always a goal, Jones acknowledged that it's especially important right now with Cherry currently without federal funding and working under an independent management firm.

"The goal of the teams is to de-escalate the situation and help the client to somewhere other than a hospital," Jones said. "The point is to be a first-responder. If it's someone who is appropriate to go to the hospital, the teams will make sure they get to the hospital.

"But if they're able to help the client in the client's own environment and find a support service right there before it escalates into a hospital setting, that's a major advantage to the system."

And, he added, "there are a lot more options for care than there were a year ago."

The goal, Jones continued, is to have the teams hired and in place by November, and then active by December.

Each, he explained, will have access to a psychiatrist and will include somebody with a mental health background, somebody with a substance abuse background and somebody with a developmentally delayed background -- "so all the disabilities are covered" -- with at least one team member in each county so that at least one can respond to any scene in two hours or less.

The teams also will work with local law enforcement agencies, several of which have recently undergone crisis intervention training.

They will be employed by Easter Seals/UPC, an Eastpointe provider. In addition to the $200,000 in start-up funds, the local management entity also was promised $310,332 in recurring funds from the state for ongoing expenses.