McLean County hopes to expand mental health crisis center hours amid staffing challenges
McLean County has a new mental health crisis center that health and government officials hope will be better integrated with other types of care than the one the county opened three years ago.
McLean County Center for Human Services (CHS) opened the behavioral health urgent care program in January at its offices in downtown Bloomington. The facility at 520 N. Center St. in the Tower Center is hosting an open house from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
The crisis center is in a temporary space as a remodel is completed. Center for Human Services CEO Joan Hartman said the center is staffed with a counselor and peer support to help people in distress set up a plan and seek treatment options if necessary.
In this edition of Sound Health, Hartman explained the crisis center follows what's called the “living room model” of mental health care.
“That’s what we have worked on to design in our remodel is to make sure that when you walk in you have a sense of, I’m where I need to be,” Hartman said.
The behavioral health urgent care program is open 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays and 1-8 p.m. Sunday. Hartman said the center hopes to expand to around-the-clock care but has not been able to hire enough workers.
“We’re just having a heck of a time recruiting bachelor’s level staff to fill our positions,” Hartman said, adding the crisis center has four full-time employees, but would need to hire 11 full-time employees to expand to 24/7 care. She said the center will expand hours as staffing levels increase.
Hartman said the center has seen high demand in the two months since it opened. She said that may be because they've not publicized it much due to limited hours.
Hartman said studies show there's great demand for mental health care in the county and feelings of isolation that came with COVID still linger for many.
“I don’t know that as a community we have really gotten back to normal because I think people still feel pretty isolated,” Hartman said.
Hartman cited an assessment the county paid for last year which showed more than 11,000 people in the McLean County service region have substance abuse disorder and nearly 9,000 people suffer from serious mental illness or serious mental disorder.
McLean County is funding the facility through a sales tax that it collects from Bloomington and Normal to address behavioral health needs.
The county opened a mental health triage center in 2020, but decided last year to outsource its management, partly to better enable the provider to seek Medicaid reimbursements.
Hartman said CHS also plans to bill private insurance. Hartman said the center will not be able to prescribe medications, at least not initially, but will be able to refer patients to receive psychiatric care which the center also offers.
The county contracted with CHS to run the crisis center for three years.