County invests to help children in crisis

VENTURA. Calif. – There are limited options for children experiencing a mental health crisis in Ventura County, but the County’s Behavioral Health Department is working to change that.

In August 2015, the Board of Supervisors authorized the purchase of a building in Oxnard to be used for children’s mental health programs. Most notably, the facility will be home to both the Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) and the Short-Term Residential Treatment Program (START). The facility is expected to open by this coming August, or sooner.

The CSU starts the continuum of mental health crisis services. It provides each youth with a multi-disciplinary risk assessment, interventions to promote stabilization, family involvement and safety planning to give the child access to the least restrictive and most appropriate level of care. The CSU is designed to provide crisis observation, evaluation and stabilization services and discharge the minor to community services without hospital admission within 23 hours. Counties with a CSU have seen hospitalization drop by 50 percent.

The START program is designed to provide voluntary residential treatment for minors who cannot be stabilized within 23 hours, but do not meet the criteria for psychiatric hospitalization. Youth in this program typically stay three to five days, but can stay a maximum of 30 days.

The facility will be run by a private contractor specializing in operating crisis stabilization outpatient services and overseen by the Behavioral Health Department. The facility will have eight beds and run around the clock.

The need is real. In the fiscal year of 2013-2014, more than 1,000 youth were placed on an involuntary hold, 500 minors underwent an assessment at the Ventura County Medical Center’s Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, nearly 600 youth were admitted to the Emergency Department and there were numerous requests for a law enforcement response.

In addition, the Behavioral Health Department is bringing the Children’s Intensive Response Team (CIRT) in-house rather than contracting for those services. CIRT responds directly to a child’s home and, and in cooperation with the County’s law enforcement partners, attempts to stabilize the crisis. If they are unable to do so, the County-run CIRT is able to seamlessly coordinate with the CSU and START programs.

The combined yearly cost for the CSU and START program is about $6 million. Operating costs for the 24-hour CIRT are expected to be about $1 million.

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