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Crisis center in Columbia could be just months from opening

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A mental health crisis center could begin operating around the clock in Columbia in the next six to nine months if money is available, local leaders said Wednesday.

Burrell Behavioral Health, city leaders and members of the community came together Wednesday morning at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to announce the progress toward building a 24/7 Behavioral Crisis Center in Columbia.

The Behavioral Crisis Center would provide a walk-in, crisis access point for individuals in need of mental health or substance abuse care. Services will include opioid use treatment, psychiatrist assessment, assessment eligibility determination, brief therapy, peer support services, extended observation and referral to appropriate follow-up treatment.

Burrell will partner with Phoenix Programs to help those suffering from a mental health crisis and provide detox services. The partnership between Burrell and Phoenix is important because it provides clients immediate access to care.

It is estimated that Burrell's Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Greene County, Missouri, saved first responders and medical partners $4.4 million to $6.6 million in the first year of operation. Program leaders are hopeful the new center in Columbia will have similar results. The Springfield center has provided crisis services to more than 1,650 people since its opening in June 2020.

Mayor Brian Treece said the center will help the uninsured get the help they need.

"And a lot of these individuals are uninsured, meaning that law enforcement referral to our great hospitals, MU Health Care and Boone Hospital, either goes uncompensated or the individual is stuck with medical debt which further enhances the crisis that may have gotten them there in the first case," Treece said.

The BCC will create 40 new job openings including 22 full-time positions.

Treece said the center would help to offer a solution for law enforcement and first responders sent to calls involving people needing psychiatric and addiction recovery services.

"And if you've ever been to an emergency room, you know, emergency doesn't always mean urgent in sometimes you sit for hours, in this case we had police officers sitting for hours, two and sometimes four at a time if there's more than one incident occurring. And it seems to me that there could be a better model in place. And so thanks to Burrell and this pilot project in Springfield, we know it works," Treece said.

Janet M. Thompson, Boone County's Northern District commissioner and a former public defender, said the center will help keep people out of the jail and prison systems.

"I saw the same people that (Columbia Police ) Chief (Geoff) Jones saw, I saw those people that I couldn't help, get out of the criminal justice system, because of a behavioral health problem. We need a 24/7 access center for folks, so people can refer to a place so that they don't refer to our already crowded ERs and our Boone County Jail. The Boone County Jail is our largest mental health facility in our county," Thompson said.

The crisis center has received funding from the Missouri Department of Mental Health to start the program and cover the first year of costs. Program leaders are urging civic engagement and continued community financial support for the establishment.

Treece said he hopes the city council will use part of the budget to help fund the establishment. The center would help to reduce the costs on local hospitals and law enforcement, he said.

"We need to do something different and to me this really gives to give those institutions, whether it's the city, the county, our hospital providers, our mental health providers the data they need to look back and say it saved lives but it also saved money," Treece said.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.

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