TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - $66 million dollars that Pima County voters approved in better times are about to pay off when the county needs it most.
"It's really an enhancement of our crisis system. It's the ability to provide something for this community that is greatly needed," says Neal Cash, Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA) President and CEO.
Better mental health care, medical care and emergency services are all going online in Pima County this month.
Organizers believe this could be unique in all the country.
It's a collaborative effort so people having a mental health crisis in Pima County can get the care they need.
It's on the Kino Campus, where UPH Hospital is located.
Two new buildings are almost ready to open, to serve Tucsonans and others in Pima County who are having mental health crises.
One of the facilities is the Crisis Response Center (CRC).
"These people don't go away. They're part of our community, and these are people that have behavioral health problems. So, how do you deal with that as a community? Understanding that these are some of the most vulnerable people we have, and how do we provide the best safety net that we can for those people that may not be able to get continuous care? We think this is the facility that can do that," Cash says.
Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can call.
Even a 9-1-1 call could go into the brand new CRC.
The Crisis Hotline number in Tucson is 520-622-6000. It's manned 24/7.
But the Crisis Response Center is much more than that for anyone, from children to adults.
It works alongside the building next door, the UPH Hospital Behavioral Health Pavilion.
Patients will get a continuum of care for their mental health and physical issues.
"Make it easy for patients so that there's really no wrong door. Wherever patients present, that's where they will get the care they need," says UPH Chief of Behavioral Health Services Dr. Patricia Harrison-Monroe.
The Behavioral Health Pavilion even has a Superior Court hearing room so that patients who are hospitalized under court order do not have to be taken across town for their hearings.
Four groups, the University of Arizona College of Medicine, UPH Hospital, Community Partnership of Southern Arizona and Pima County collaborated on this.
"The Crisis Response Center and UPH Hospital accept anyone of any age, regardless of ability to pay," says Pima County Assistant Administrator for Health Policy Honey Pivirotto.
The College of Medicine and UPH will provide the doctors for both facilities.
Psychiatrists will train at the facilities.
Hospital emergency rooms that can be flooded with psychiatric patients are expected to have more room for other patients.
"Our goal is to keep people out of our emergency departments, to keep folks who don't need to be in jail, out of jail, and to get people back on their feet and back into the community in a healthy way," says the CPSA's Cash.
Back when Pima County voters approved the bonds to pay for this system, some wondered why spend the money? Times were good.
People were getting services.
Since then, massive budget cuts have left many people out in the cold.
The opening of the two facilities and an expanded emergency department seems like perfect timing.
"What you're going to find is that the community is going to get the biggest bang for the buck," Cash says.
The new emergency department at UPH Hospital will be opening this month as well.
The plan is that it eventually will become a Level 3 trauma unit, to enhance the Level 1 trauma center at University Medical Center.
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