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Posted on: November 3, 2017

Pierce County investments in behavioral health services are saving lives and restoring health

The newest option for residents is the Mobile Community Intervention Response Team (MCIRT) operating in the Parkland/Spanaway area. In its first month of operation, the MCIRT has served 36 of our county residents with some of the most severe behavioral health needs and who significantly utilize first responders and emergency department services. MCIRT clients have been connected to housing, behavioral and medical care, and case management services.

Complicating the challenge of behavioral health treatment and recovery, the majority of the clients served by the MCIRT have been homeless or living in otherwise derelict, unsafe or inadequate housing.

The team is co-located with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, facilitating collaboration and referrals.

“While early, the initial results from this pilot program are showing significant outcomes for some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Bruce Dammeier, County Executive. “At the same time, our first responders are being freed up from calls and visits better suited to those with the behavioral health expertise to handle them. It’s a win for everyone.”

In addition to the MCIRT, the County provided $500,000 to contract with the local behavioral health organization (BHO) to enhance the Countywide Mobile Outreach Crisis Team responsible for immediate mental health crisis intervention and involuntary treatment assessments.

“My colleagues on the County Council and I realize that addressing the behavioral health needs of our community requires multiple approaches,” said Doug Richardson, Chair of the County Council. “That’s why we entered into the mobile outreach contract with the county’s behavioral health organization, Optum. It’s important to meet people where they’re at, especially when they are in crisis.”

Pierce County also provided a one-time $1 million appropriation to support the construction of a new 120-bed inpatient behavioral health hospital currently under construction on the Allenmore Hospital campus in Tacoma. When completed in 2018 the hospital will be a referral point for nine hospitals in the south Puget Sound and treat approximately 5,000 patients each year.

In another step forward for residents, this week Pierce County reached an agreement with the Healthcare Authority (HCA) in Washington state to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare for Medicaid patients beginning January 2019. Washington state is required by state law to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare by January 2020, at the latest. Pierce County’s agreement with the HCA accelerates that process by one year.

“Our healthcare system today is fragmented and difficult to navigate in the best of circumstances,” said Steven O’Ban, Senior Counsel for Behavioral Health in Pierce County. “By integrating medical and behavioral healthcare we are giving care providers the opportunity to work together and more closely with social service groups and better provide whole person care. As we build out that system with a network of related services such as housing and job training support, we are making a huge commitment of staff and resources to bring a coordinated continuum of care to Pierce County.”

Planning is also underway to establish a second 16-bed crisis stabilization center in Pierce County. The center would likely be located in the Parkland/Spanaway area to provide greater access for crisis services for residents and first responders transporting patients in the central and southern area of the County.  The future Center, currently in the 2018 budget under review, would be partially funded through a $500,000 appropriation from the County combined with funds in partnership with private providers.

The state of Washington ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of the availability of mental health services when compared to access and capacity. The national average for beds per 100,000 people is 26.1, while Washington State currently averages 8.3 beds. Pierce County ranks among the lowest of all urban counties in the state with 2.8 beds per 100,000 residents.


MEDIA CONTACTS:
Libby Catalinich, Pierce County Communications Director
253-798-6606
libby.catalinich@co.pierce.wa.us

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