Colonial Behavioral Health has opened a behavioral crisis center at Riverside Doctors' Hospital in Williamsburg.
The community services board, which serves the mental health needs of residents in Williamsburg, Poquoson, James City and York counties, was one of six to receive funding from the state to open a Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center this year. It solicited interest from area hospitals and Riverside signed on to provide the space and additional staff.
"We are so grateful to Riverside, our local law enforcement and all our community partners who helped make this center possible," said David Coe, executive director for Colonial Behavioral Health.
The centers have proven effective around the state in diverting those in psychiatric crisis from jail to appropriate mental health care, while also freeing up law enforcement for other duties.
"It's less restrictive and a more therapeutic setting. It has been a mad dash over two and a half months but we're fully functional," said Will Armstrong, emergency services coordinator for the mental health agency. He added that they're still recruiting peer specialists to help patients with recovery, and to link them to outpatient services.
The center provides a central location for police to bring individuals in crisis for evaluation and treatment. "Officers can transfer custody of individuals to a CIT-trained (crisis intervention), unarmed security officer and get back on patrol quickly while individuals are assessed and linked to care," said Dan Longo, director of behavioral services for Colonial Behavioral Health.
When Debra K. Ferguson moved from Illinois to become commissioner of Virginia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services this spring, she made her top priority strengthening and expanding Virginia's emergency response system. "One thing we did very well in Illinois was crisis intervention teams. They're an important aspect," she said. "We also need to expand the secure assessment centers. They're critical components."
The legislature endorsed expanding the program this year, and the behavioral health department awarded $270,000 to Colonial Behavioral Health for the center. "It's important for managing behavioral health and getting them the help they need in a timely manner," said James McCorry, medical director of Riverside Doctors' Hospital and Emergency Department, which has assigned space for the evaluation of two patients at a time. "The funding goes for equipment, security enhancement — crisis intervention trained security staff — and behavioral health staff," he said. "We have dedicated personnel and dedicated space."
By law, patients must be evaluated and either released or placed in inpatient care within eight hours. In its first 27 days, the center served 24 patients, of whom 14 were hospitalized, according to McCorry. By allowing law enforcement personnel to return to their duties, the center saved the officers 20 hours during that same time period, he said.
The center is open to law enforcement drop-off only between 4 p.m. and midnight daily; others in crisis should contact Colonial Behavioral Health at 757-220-3200.
Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.