Crisis Stabilization Units provide effective treatment option

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A guest op-ed by San Bernardino City Councilman Juan Figueroa in response to Assemblymember James Ramos op-ed on July 9, “Crisis Stabilization Units Promote Recovery/Treatment.”

Our local hospital emergency rooms are experiencing a significant increase in congestion from a new type of patient.  Many social workers at our regional trauma centers are reporting that individuals are taken to or proceeding to the emergency room and requesting services that are not related to physical injuries or illnesses.  Instead, they are arriving in the emergency department seeking assistance for psychiatric crises that may or may not rise to the level which requires acute psychiatric hospitalization.

Assemblymember James Ramos has taken the lead in responding to this crisis, and I am relieved to learn that mental health and hospital congestion is an issue that is now receiving greater attention from our state policy makers.

As one part of the behavioral health continuum of care, Assemblymember Ramos highlighted his interest in combating the stigma of mental health by raising awareness of this issue and connecting people with the mental health services and help they need through the appropriate use of Crisis Stabilization Units.

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In my professional capacity as a medical social worker, I have regularly utilized the Crisis Stabilization Units in San Bernardino County.

In an effort to provide a compassionate and safe discharge from the hospital, social workers connect these patients with resources aimed at reducing non-medical readmissions.  We provide these patients with County support services such as Crisis Residential Treatment and Crisis Stabilization Units as an option to use when individuals are not experiencing a medical emergency but still require attention for a psychiatric episode.

The mental health crisis we currently see is not just a local issue.  This crisis is visible regionally and throughout the State of California.

Crisis Stabilization Units are part of the continuum of care that contribute to the more effective use of clinically appropriate resources and provide a more cost-effective treatment option when compared to hospitalization.

Crisis Stabilization Units, or CSUs, also act as an urgent care for those experiencing a psychiatric crisis.  Patients are seen by a clinician and a psychiatrist to evaluate their immediate needs.  CSUs can provide up to 23 hours of care to stabilize a person.  CSUs provide medication or a brief intervention before ensuring that the patient is directed to a clinically appropriate level.  If patient care needs are high, they are provided access to high level care through Crisis Residential Treatment.  If the patient care needs are lower, they can be provided with an appointment at a behavioral health clinic or a follow-up evaluation with their own physician.

Crisis Residential Treatment (CRT) is another level of care that allows a patient, who may not require inpatient hospitalization but still needs a higher level of care, to live in a safe treatment environment.  At this level, treatment is provided, and the person is stabilized and later discharged to an appropriate level of care.

I support Assemblymember Ramos in his effort to make mental health treatment a central component of our public health and for his advocacy in seeking funding to develop additional resources to serve this population in crisis.

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