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Warrenton center to offer expanded behavioral health services

Facility provides better solution than jails or hospitals, officials say

Photo Credit: COLUMBIA PACIFIC COORDINATED CARE PHOTO - A former daycare center in Warrenton will soon provide respite care to behavioral health patients from Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties.

A new facility in Warrenton will serve Columbia County residents who have an immediate need for mental health services.

Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization is partnering with Clatsop Behavioral Health, Clatsop County, Columbia Memorial Hospital, Providence Seaside Hospital and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. to fund and operate the new 16-bed facility. Six health professionals are also helping the process along.

The facility, which has yet to be named, will offer respite care on a walk-in or referral basis for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

“To date, GOBHI has purchased the building and Providence Health & Services has contributed more than $70,000 for equipment at the new facility,” Leslie Ford, director of clinical innovation at GOBHI, stated in a news release.

The former daycare building is being remodeled to accommodate overnight patients. It is slated to open in spring 2015.

The facility is a trek for Columbia County residents, but representatives say it will give those in need of mental health services a vital alternative to hospitals and jails.

“It’s a whole different experience and it’s not necessarily as therapeutic when they’re in the jail or waiting for a hospital,” Sumuer Watkins, executive director at Clatsop Behavioral Health, said. “This is a more home-like and nurturing experience for someone who’s in a crisis. Sometimes they just need to get away.”

Watkins said she and other organizers expect an average stay at the respite care center to last anywhere from one to three days. She said the center’s services should be covered by most insurance plans, including the Oregon Health Plan. Those without insurance can still receive services.

The announcement of a new behavioral health center was welcomed by Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson. Dickerson and other law enforcement officials in the county often respond to calls involving mentally distressed people. The sheriff said trying to care for those people at the jail or hospitals isn’t the best use of resources.

“I fully support the idea and look forward to using it as a resource,” Dickerson said. “Too many people with mental health issues end up in our jail on minor crimes, because there is nowhere else to take them. If we can use the facility in Warrenton as an alternative for those in mental health crisis, it will be a win for everyone concerned.” 

Warrenton’s behavioral health center will differ from what Columbia Community Mental Health already offers.

Roland Migchielsen, executive director of CCMH, said the forthcoming facility is geared specifically toward respite care.

Migchielsen said he and his staff will refer patients to the center if they are in need of temporary housing at an around-the-clock crisis center.

Like the CCO and its partners, Migchielsen said CCMH is also trying to bridge a gap in treatment services. He said he’s looking to open a drug and alcohol detoxification center in St. Helens in early 2015.

“There is a high need for detox and that’s why we’re going to do it,” Migchielsen said, noting the Portland metro area offers only two proper detox facilities for the critical first few days of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. “I think it’s more realistic that we will open in February.”

Migchielsen said the new detox center will accommodate up to nine people.