The new crisis stabilization unit in Vista. Photo credit: County News Center

A crisis stabilization unit opened Thursday in Vista, a facility intended to provide much-needed support to people who might otherwise end up in jail or the emergency room.

Officials touted the center as the first of its kind in the region outside of a hospital setting to serve those experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

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.”

Other county leaders joined Fletcher, including Supervisor Jim Desmond, District Attorney Summer Stephan; Undersheriff Kelly Martinez, Nick Macchione, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency, and Dr. Luke Bergmann, director of County Behavioral Health Services.

Crisis stabilization units are intended to provide services in a community-based or hospital setting on a walk-in basis with stays of less than 24 hours.

The unit provides community and mobile crisis team transport, and law enforcement may drop off people experiencing a behavioral health crisis, allowing deputies more options to connect people to care.

Services at the Vista center are being provided by a private firm, Exodus Recovery, Inc.

This is the second crisis stabilization unit the county has opened in North County.

The first, hospital-based, at Palomar Health in Escondido, doubled its capacity to 16 recliners earlier this year. A third unit is slated to open in Oceanside later this year at the North Coastal Live Well Health Center.

“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 a county effort to expand access to behavioral health services throughout the region.

A psychiatric health facility also is being built, in partnership with Tri-City Medical Center, on its Oceanside campus, with a groundbreaking expected 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. The new facility will be located on a vacant county-owned property on Third Avenue.

“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,” Macchione said.

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.

– City News Service

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