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Mental Health Triage Facility June 12, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: ,

I like to share good ideas  in the hope that they can be successfully replicated elsewhere.  This is one of the better ideas I have come across, and it just happens to be in my own county (Snohomish WA, USA):

(Reprinted from An Editorial published  May 10, 2011 in The Herald, Everett WA)

The news is a constant reminder that our prisons are overcrowded, as are our emergency rooms, and that the state doesn’t have the means or infrastructure to deal with all the mentally ill people who need help.

These are monster social problems, all related, for which there is no single fix. So when a good idea emerges, it’s important to add it to the social services/law enforcement toolkit. Which is what happened when a “triage facility” bill, originating from a pioneering Snohomish County (WA) program, was signed into law at the end of April.

The law allows counties to operate triage facilities as a cost-effective alternative to jails and emergency rooms for evaluating mentally ill people and those needing substance-abuse treatment who have been arrested for non-felony crimes. In March, Snohomish County began a successful test run of such a facility at the Bailey Center in Everett (WA); it’s operated by North Sound Mental Health Administration and Compass Health.

The law allows persons to be held involuntarily at a triage center for a maximum of 12 hours, while they stabilized and evaluated for treatment and the appropriate course of action. Before, people arrested for non-felony crimes could only be held involuntarily at jails or hospital emergency rooms.

The creation of the triage center came out of the (Snohomish)County Council’s 2008 adoption of a tenth of a cent increase in the sales tax for mental health and chemical dependency services, as allowed by state law. The center is funded through a partnership with the county and North Sound Mental Health Administration.

Approximately 24 percent of the people booked into the Snohomish County Jail have mental health issues and about 6 percent have a serious and persistent mental illness, Snohomish County Human Services Director Ken Stark told Herald reporter Diana Hefley in the 2009 article, “Mentally ill often adrift in the criminal justice system.” About 70 percent of the people booked into the jail have a drug or alcohol addiction, Stark said.

Tom Sebastian, Compass Health CEO and president, said the new program is cost effective because most people in crisis are not in need of acute medical services, saving the costly trip to the emergency room. The triage center is staffed with peer counselors, mental health technicians, clinicians and nursing staff.

Snohomish County officials, mental health workers, law enforcement and legislators made this smart step happen after creatively trying to come up with way to help the mentally ill and/or drug addicts, and save money at the same time. Now the rest of the state can benefit, too.



1. Andrew C - June 12, 2011

This is something I would love to see more of nationwide! I work in an ER, and feel our care for people with mental illness is far below where it could and should be. It makes very good sense to set up a separate facility. The person you want dealing with major physical trauma or a heart attack is completely different from the person you want dealing with mental health issues. A separate facility means you can hire the best people for that job, and can design the facility for that purpose too.

Crazy Mermaid - June 14, 2011

Yes. I posted this with the hope that someone in another State would pursue it.

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