This column by Erika Clark Jones, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, was published in the July 2023 edition of the Columbus African American News Journal
As a community, Columbus and Franklin County have been challenged to do more and to do better for individuals and families experiencing a mental health and/or addiction-related crisis. The availability of equitable and accessible crisis care – regardless of insurance status and ability to pay – is essential and non-negotiable.
Mental health and addiction-related crises can happen to any of us at any time. We deserve a system that responds to everyone.
As we commemorate Minority Mental Health Month, it is important to remember that treatment for mental health and addiction is fundamental healthcare. Too often, those experiencing a mental health or addiction-related crisis do not have a clear path to appropriate care, defaulting to hospital emergency rooms or interactions with law enforcement personnel as crisis response teams.
Public safety plays a role and is an important part of the solution. Yet a behavioral health response does not always need to involve EMS or police first responders when there is no life-threatening medical emergency or imminent threat of violence.
The Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH) supports more than 30 community-based providers dedicated to equitable, accessible behavioral healthcare for all residents. Twenty-five percent of our budget supports better community crisis response.
ADAMH and its many partners are working to enhance the crisis care continuum in Franklin County, ensuring that there is someone to call, someone to come and a place to go for individuals in crisis. To be successful we must meet people where they are, with the most appropriate response for an individual’s situation, and ensure better care and timely access for all persons.
Someone to call:
With the support of the federal and state government, 988, the new national suicide and crisis lifeline, was launched last summer. Locally, calls are being answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week by North Central Mental Health Service. This new number provides an easy-to-remember central point of contact for any mental health-related crisis. The introduction of 988 also consolidates a variety of separate crisis lines, including the suicide hotline. There also are options to text to 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.
Someone to come:
With support from ADAMH, Netcare recently implemented community-based mobile response teams for adults in Franklin County. Community response teams include a clinician and peer supporter for interventions that do not require first responders or law enforcement. The community response teams are dispatched through 988 and available throughout Franklin County and with the ability to respond immediately and conduct follow up visits or phone calls when appropriate.
ADAMH also has partnered to create teams of clinicians and family peers to work with youth, ages 17 and under, experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Operated by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, these response and stabilization services currently run from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, with plans to expand in the future. The teams are dispatched through the Nationwide Children’s crisis line: 614-722-1800.
Somewhere to go:
The cornerstone of our crisis care continuum is the new adult-serving Franklin County Crisis Care Center, which began construction in April. More than 100 community partners gathered on Feb. 7 to celebrate the ceremonial groundbreaking on-site at the property located at 465 Harmon Ave.
This project is a number of years in the making and was influenced by several realities – including that 20% of Franklin County’s residents will experience a mental illness in a given year, and demand for services is forecasted to grow 23% in the next 10 years.
When it opens in 2025, the more than 70 thousand-square-foot community-based facility will serve up to 80 individuals at any point in time and offer an array of critical crisis intervention services through both walk-in and inpatient units. The center will offer a no-wrong-door approach to ensure that any adult arriving at the crisis center receives services regardless of ability to pay.
It has taken many people and many teams, coming together over several years, to make this commitment to accessible care a reality. Voices from every part of the community were part of the planning process and included mental health and addiction service providers, hospitals, law enforcement, advocacy organizations, and most importantly individuals and families with lived experience.
The Franklin County Crisis Care Center has not only benefited from tremendous collaborative support in its planning but it also has received funding from an array of institutions and donors. Furthermore, government financial support has come at every level—federal, state, county and city.
The result is a crisis care facility uniquely designed for Franklin County that will meet a range of needs through an innovative model that integrates recovery, clinical and medical services together to provide comprehensive, person-centered care.
ADAMH Is grateful for the energy, collaboration and concern for our relatives and neighbors that will power this center and strengthen the crisis care safety net for all in the community, providing help, healing, health and hope to those living with, and occasionally struggling with, mental health and addiction-related crises.