WENATCHEE — A state agency announced Friday that the Chelan-Douglas Regional Support Network will receive $1.295 million to improve intensive mental health services with local programs.
The funds could mean development of local option for people in a mental health crisis who need hospitalization.
Currently, people who need to be hospitalized are sent to a state facility, or kept in a jail or hospital bed without mental health treatment until their situation stabilizes or a bed becomes available at a state facility.
Over the past few years, the overuse of those state beds led to stiff fines for the Chelan-Douglas RSN. The state forgave some of those fines and increased allotted beds in the two-county area to 14.
“This gives us a lot more options,” Douglas County Commissioner Ken Stanton said of the new funding. Stanton, who is on the Chelan-Douglas RSN governing board, said he’s hopeful the funds will result in a new local program to help evaluate and treat people in crisis.
The newly announced funds attempt to help communities offer treatment options that improve health and safety, and avoid the high cost of emergency room care, a state Department of Social and Health Services news release said. Those funds are designed to meet local needs, with services ranging from offering crisis treatment beds, intensive care management, mobile crisis response teams and assistance for people transitioning out of hospital beds.
The DSHS funds are part of $23 million to be distributed to RSNs across the state to help local entities meet new standards for involuntary mental health treatment.
Those new standards take effect next summer, and the funding encourages RSNs to create specialized crisis services in their own communities, a DSHS news release said.
Local RSN officials said they’ve been working with Confluence Health to see if some beds at the hospital can be used for mental health patients.
That option is being aggressively explored, but there are still many questions that need to be answered by different agencies before a decision can be made, said RSN interim director Tamara Cardwell-Burns.
“It’s a little premature to say it’s going to be at Confluence Health, but we’re exploring that as an option,” she said, adding, “At least we have some funding to try and do something locally.”
Peter Rutherford, CEO at Confluence Health, said the hospital is open to the idea of using some of its beds for mental health evaluation and treatment. “We recognize this is a community problem, and we want to do something to try to help. But there are way too many unknowns at this time to make any formal commitments,” he said.