Article by Cindy Beamon
The Daily Advance
Monday, April 6, 2015
CURRITUCK — Crisis workers are helping reduce the time law enforcement spends in emergency rooms with mental health and drug abuse patients, a regional mental health provider reported recently.
Calls to Mobile Crisis are higher in Currituck compared to two larger, nearby counties — but that’s good, said Keith Hamm with Integrated Family Services, a private provider for Greenville-based East Carolina Behavorial Health.
One hundred and 18 calls in Currituck last year is an indicator that Mobile Crisis is diverting patients who may otherwise end up in hospital emergency rooms or jails. Those calls save local law enforcement hours they would spend with detainees if they did not call Mobile Crisis, Hamm said.
Currituck’s call volume is high compared to 137 calls in Pasquotank and 80 in Dare considering their larger populations, noted Hamm. The number of calls in Currituck is not an indicator, however, that the county needs more help, he said.
“There is a huge need in all these counties, but what these numbers actually show is that Mobile Crisis works right in Currituck County,” said Hamm.
The services result in savings to local law enforcement, Hamm recently told both the Currituck boards of commissioners and education.
Mobile Crisis responds to calls by law enforcement, schools and magistrates to help avoid unnecessarily hospitalizing or arresting individuals with mental health or substance abuse problems.
“When I say we divert 85 percent of the people we see, that’s a big number for taxpayers, but that’s also big news for citizens of Currituck County who are not taken away to jail or taken to the (emergency room) if they don’t need to be, if we can handle things outside those means,” said Hamm.
Otherwise, law enforcement officers must go through the time-consuming task of transporting a mental health patient to an emergency room, waiting for an opening at a treatment facility, and then driving the patient to that facility, usually in Ahoskie or farther away.
“The officer is left there in the community, trying to deal with a mental health or substance abuse issue, and they are not equipped for that. It’s not their job, so it’s a drain on law enforcement,” Hamm said.
Hamm said Currituck became a model for the rest of the state in how the Mobile Crisis responds to calls. At one time, crisis workers first asked patients by phone if they wanted services before arriving on scene, but changed the procedure in Currituck in cooperation with the sheriff’s office.
Now, each time law enforcement, schools or magistrates calls, Mobile Crisis responds, regardless. The practice is so effective, it has become Integrated Family Practice’s standard procedure, Hamm said.
As a provider for ECBH, Mobile Crisis does not charge patients although patients have to agree to receive services, Hamm noted.
Learn more about how Mobile Crisis can be an alternative to hospitalization at an information session scheduled for June 9, 2015