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Triage Center Helps With Rising Need for Behavioral Health Amid Pandemic

Trisha leads tour
Breanna Grow
McLean County Behavioral Health Coordinating Council Supervisor Trisha Malott gives a tour of the Triage Center in March 2020.

The McLean County Triage Center in downtown Bloomington experienced its busiest month to date in February. 

The center opened in March 2020as a resource for individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. At the time, McLean County Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC) Supervisor Tricia Malott said the center represented “one of the missing puzzle pieces to the crisis system within McLean County.”

No one could’ve predicted the center’s opening would almost directly coincide with the myriad crises spawned by the global pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the BHCC on Friday, Malott touched on different aspects of behavioral health crises, including panic and anxiety attacks, substance abuse, and adjustment disorders.

“Recognizing that in the past 12 months, we have lived through COVID-19 -- and that inherently could be classified as an adjustment disorder for some people," Malott said.

Malott said it was important to communicate to the community just how relatable behavioral health diagnoses can be. 

According to the CDC, 40% of adults surveyed in June 2020 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition related to the pandemic.

The Triage Center, located at on the first floor of 200 W. Front St., accepts people on a walk-in basis, as well as those escorted by law enforcement or an organization like the Mobile Crisis Team. The center is designed to assess the needs of someone experiencing crisis and divert the individual from unnecessary entry into the criminal justice system or hospital emergency room.

Malott has said that many people tend to end up in the ER because there’s nowhere else to go, making emergency departments a kind of “de facto option when somebody feels like they are in a state of behavioral crisis.”

Malott told the BHCC the majority of individuals entering the crisis center are discharged home. Very few have been referred to hospitals.

Hospital capacities have been strained throughout the pandemic, making proper referrals all the more critical. On one day at the end of February, only 6% of hospital beds in Bloomington-Normal were open.

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Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
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