#FINDINGHOPE: Crisis center leaders hoping to save lives, time, dollars in Treasure Valley

There are now two centers open in the Valley.
Posted at 11:19 AM, May 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 16:34:21-04

IDAHO — Governor Little welcomed a second crisis center to the Treasure Valley recently--and there are now centers in six out of seven Idaho regions. The centers are for adults in crisis needing mental health services, but who lack the essential resources.

But how much are the centers helping? And who are they helping the most? 6 On Your Side's Madeline White spoke with local project leaders working for the State.

At the new Western Idaho Community Crisis Center in Caldwell, staff say their work is especially gratifying in moments like this described by Cristina Froude, Project Manager at the Caldwell WICCC: "Clients leaving and basically hugging everyone in the building, including our security, because they are just so grateful to have somewhere to be when they're in crisis."

The free-to-use centers—of which there are now two in the Treasure Valley-- are in many ways "shelter from the storm," storms more Idahoans than ever say they're suffering through.

"We were seeing an ever-increasing number of people being placed on what we call mental holds," said Ross Edmunds, Administrator, Division of Behavioral Health, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Mental holds take place when police or a doctor have concerns over a person's mental or emotional well-being--concerns specific to a threat of harm to themselves or others.

"Law enforcement sometimes have to sit with someone for hours in an emergency department," said Edmunds.

After people placed in holds are medically stabilized, if need be, police or physicians now have the option to transport or direct them to a crisis center to mentally stabilize.

And with the centers as a resource, Edmunds hopes to not just save lives but also police officers' time.

"They can go out and work in communities like they should be," said Edmunds.

And with the cut of a ribbon--or six--state leaders are also hoping to cut some costs for taxpayers.

For instance, the crisis center in Coeur D'Alene, which has been open for four years now, estimates about $400,000 per quarter in savings of emergency department and hospitalization costs, according to Edmunds. "We've seen a lot of cost savings," he said.

But to have those kinds of savings in the Treasure Valley, we first need participation.

During what's now been 30 days since the Western Idaho Community Crisis Center opened, Froude said they've serviced 60 stays in that time, including any repeat visitors. That averages to only two stays per day in a facility that has twenty beds.

But the centers are still very new and part of gaining more participants, Froude says, is making police aware of them.

"We're actively doing presentations to our law enforcement in Region Three," said Froude.

Region Three, by the way, includes Canyon, Adams, Gem, Payette, Washington, and Owyhee. She continued, "So that we can help tell them--what the crisis center is for--and how we can be a resource to them."

So far at the Caldwell center, Froude said top reasons for service have included major depression, alcohol use, and post-traumatic stress.

"People are suffering and alone, and its--I mean this is a very painful disease mental illnesses," said Edmunds.

And while people can only stay at the centers for a short time (a max of 23 hours and 59 minutes to be exact), Edmunds hopes that with crisis center professionals directing them to resources, they'll have the tools for long-term stability.

"Mental health services are effective, but we have to get people to them," said Edmunds.