A community-based crisis stabilization unit opened Thursday in Vista -- the first in the region outside of a hospital setting -- and is intended to provide much-needed support to people who might typically end up at a local emergency room or in jail.
County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said that in the last three years, the board has made significant increases in investment and funding to provide better access to behavioral health services.
"It is about how do we build a system that works -- projects like this, crisis stabilization units -- are a vital component," Fletcher said. "It is so important that we meet people where they are; that we get the right care to the right person at the right time and get the right outcomes."
Fletcher was joined by other county leaders, including Supervisor Jim Desmond; District Attorney Summer Stephan; Undersheriff Kelly Martinez; Nick Macchione, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency; Dr. Luke Bergmann, director of County Behavioral Health Services; and Luana Murphy, president and CEO of Exodus Recovery, Inc.
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Crisis stabilization units are intended to provide services in a community-based or hospital settings for people experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis.
Services are provided on a walk-in basis with stays of less than 24 hours. In addition to walk-in, community and mobile crisis team transport, law enforcement may drop off people experiencing a behavioral health crisis to CSUs as a safe alternative to jail or a hospital, allowing deputies more options to connect people to care.
CSUs are designed to enable the smoothest transition possible from law enforcement engagement to care hand-off. Services at the Vista CSU are being provided by Exodus Recovery, Inc.
This is the second CSU the county has opened in North County. The first one, a hospital-based CSU, opened at Palomar Health in Escondido several years ago, and earlier this year, doubled its capacity to 16 recliners. A third crisis stabilization unit is also slated to open in Oceanside later this year at the North Coastal Live Well Health Center and will offer 12 additional recliners.
"This is a lifesaver for North County," Desmond said. "I don't say this as an exaggeration. This will save lives for those who are going through a crisis in their life, who are struggling with a burden and need the assistance to get their life back on track."
The crisis stabilization units are part of the county's efforts to expand access to behavioral health services throughout the region.
A psychiatric health facility is also being built, in partnership with Tri-City Medical Center, on its Oceanside campus. This facility will provide 16 beds and is expected to break ground in Spring 2022.
The county is also working with UC San Diego Health to open a behavioral health hub in Hillcrest that will offer an array of services to the community. The new facility will be located on a county-owned property on Third Avenue, which has been vacant for years.
"Following the leadership of our Board of Supervisors, and guided by direction of Dr. Bergmann, these efforts add to the array of crisis services in the north regions and are part of an expanding effort to get more people with mental illness the help they need," said Macchione.
People needing immediate behavioral health help should call 9-1-1. Help is also available by calling the county's Access and Crisis Line at 888- 724-7240 or by going to Up2SD.org.