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Columbia River Mental Health Services will unveil a service starting this week that is intended to both provide more direct mental health counseling and treatment to vulnerable individuals, and relieve law enforcement and emergency service personnel from the need to respond to mental health and substance use crises overnight.

The Columbia River Night Crisis team launches May 15. Operating out of a sophisticated mobile health vehicle, the team will be based in Battle Ground and will respond to crises from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.. seven days a week. The vehicle staff will include two to three Crisis Support Specialists who are trained in crisis intervention, de-escalation, and risk assessment.

With the launch of the Night Crisis team, mobile response services to Clark County individuals will extend to 24/7. SeaMar/CSNW’s Adult Mobile Crisis Intervention (AMCI) operates from 8 a.m. to midnight. Columbia River and SeaMar/CSNW strategically created a 2-hour safe harbor window from 10 p.m. to midnight as it tends to be high call time and ensures crises during the transition hours are attended to.

Columbia River’s fully equipped daytime response Mobile Health unit, staffed by trained and certified medical, mental health, peer, and substance use disorder specialists, began offering services to houseless individuals staying at encampments in October 2021. The Mobile Health unit currently provides services Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the goal of expanding to seven days a week.

Launching a Night Crisis team is the next necessary step to address increasing mental and behavioral health crises during evening hours – high call times for law enforcement and emergency units. Unlike the daytime team, which provides more comprehensive services, the Night Crisis team will primarily focus on behavioral health crisis intervention.

Outcomes and Goals

Specific outcomes and goals for Night Crisis include:

  • To reduce hospitalizations, urgent care, and emergency room visits by unsheltered individuals and individuals in crisis.
  • To reduce dispatches for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.
  • To reduce calls to local law enforcement officials regarding unsheltered individuals or individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
  • To increase referrals to behavioral health services for unsheltered individuals or individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

Dawn Tec Yah, supervisor of Night Crisis Team, said Night Crisis is designed to divert hundreds of calls for help annually from first responders to the mobile team. Preventable hospitalizations will also be reduced as individuals’ needs are met where they are at by members of the mobile unit.

“Inadequate access to health care is a major factor for these preventable trips, particularly for vulnerable populations,” she said. “Residents facing a mental health crisis at night often have few options for intervention, and end up in the emergency room or police station for non-life-threatening conditions. This is a worsening problem in Clark County and throughout the nation where communities are experiencing unprecedented rates of homelessness and a deepening opioid crisis.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, you can reach the mobile teams in Clark County by calling the 24/7 Crisis Connections line at 800-626-8137.

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