A Buncombe County community partnership has succeeded in securing just under $2 million in grant funding from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to open a new 24-hour urgent care center and crisis facility for mental health and addiction treatment in Asheville.
The funding was awarded through the department’s Crisis Solutions Initiative, a statewide effort to improve mental health and substance use crisis services. Smoky Mountain LME/MCO (Smoky), which manages public funds for behavioral health and developmental disability services in western North Carolina, led a collaborative effort involving 22 area organizations to develop the new center.
The regional comprehensive care center is set to open later this year adjacent to Mission Hospital at 356 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, a facility currently occupied by Smoky. Smoky is relocating this spring to south Asheville.
Buncombe County owns the facility and has dedicated it for behavioral health functions. Mission Health and the county are partnering to provide a financial commitment for renovations, and Buncombe County Health and Human Services will provide in-kind operational support of $500,000 annually, which includes the cost of space, utilities and a 24-hour-a-day, on-site law enforcement officer.
“This comprehensive care center will operate under a philosophy that recovery from addiction or mental illness is not only possible, it happens,” said Smoky CEO Brian Ingraham. “Staff will offer crisis resolution, support, safety and real options for recovery. The co-location of multiple services at one site reflects a vision of community partners to provide ‘whole person’ care to people in need of medical, clinical and pharmacy services.”
In recent years, Buncombe and surrounding counties have seen unprecedented demand for behavioral health crisis services, stretching local hospital capacity. Many people in crisis feel they have no option except to visit an emergency department, which is not an ideal setting for this type of care to be delivered.
The center will serve both children and adults from Buncombe and surrounding counties and operate 16 beds for people in crisis and who need a secure place to stay while they receive therapy and medication.
The center will offer urgent behavioral healthcare and detox services, mobile crisis care, same-day assessments, outpatient therapy and intensive outpatient treatment for substance use. It will also house community and peer support and treatment teams. The center will also include a community pharmacy.
The center’s multi-disciplinary staff will include physicians, licensed clinicians, registered nurses, qualified professionals and security staff.
Certified peer support specialists will work with individuals receiving care at the center to offer hope and support, build trusting relationships and connect people to aftercare and community resources.
The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will offer on-site family support services.
RHA Health Services, Inc., a local service provider, will operate the facility, and the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry will provide pharmacy services. The Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will provide security, transportation and custody services for individuals under an involuntary commitment order.
One of the most exciting aspects of the development of the regional center is the ability to repurpose the Neil Dobbins Center across the street. Currently, the Neil Dobbins Center is an adult crisis stabilization and detox facility. As these programs move to the new regional comprehensive care center, the Neil Dobbins Center will be used as a facility-based crisis center for children and youth.
The DHHS Crisis Solutions Initiative aims to ensure that people experiencing an acute mental health or substance use crisis receive timely, specialized psychiatric treatment in coordination with available, appropriate community resources.
Each year, there are an estimated 150,000 visits to emergency departments in North Carolina related to an acute psychiatric or addictive disorder crisis, and 13 percent of individuals with a mental health crisis treated in an emergency department will return within 30 days, according to DHHS.