Austin mental health center offering new, innovative services

New mental health crisis center to save taxpayer money

AUSTIN - A first of its kind mental health crisis care center will soon be up and running in Austin, and what it provides goes beyond the traditional care currently available in the area. It's also supposed to save taxpayer money.

Integral Care's Judge Guy Herman Center will provide short-term emergency psychiatric care, which means getting patients stabilized, assessed and treated in a secure, protected environment. The center came about as a collaboration of local health care organizations and is the first of its kind in Travis County.

Laura Slocum is the practice administrator at Integral Care. She said this center is going to open up new avenues for a lot of departments to handle people with serious mental problems.

"The Judge Guy Herman Center provides a different type of treatment for people experiencing a mental health crisis," Slocum said. "This really focuses on short-term stabilization with a goal of getting that person on a path to recovery as quickly as possible and having them return to the community as quickly as possible with support from Integral Care's treatment teams."

This facility will have four registered nurses and four licensed vocational nurses (LVN) as well as a couple of relief nurses. Kelly Sowa is the nurse supervisor and she said this type of care is much different than what it would look like at a hospital.

"The E.R. is not necessarily trained to handle patients like this," Sowa said. "We won't be seeing them for a long time. We hope to get them in and get them stable. At the E.R. or the jail, they wouldn't get the treatment that they need."

The Austin Police Department is a partner with the Herman Center, as officers will be bringing in the bulk of patients. James Turner is on the Crisis Intervention Team for APD and said this not only allows officers to take care of people who are in these type of mental crises but also reduce the number of people in jails.

"This offers us a different approach to how we sometimes have to handle situations," Turner said. "We are emphasizing the service part of law enforcement. Jail diversion saves the community money and also diverts people from the criminal justice system who are suffering from mental illness. This make our job easier, provides us with more resources and tools in the toolbox."

The center's goal is to keep patients only two to three days -- before getting them back out stabilized.

"This offers an alternative to in-patient hospitalization, incarceration and emergency departments when people are experiencing a mental health crisis," Slocum said. "Historically, those have been the only three options in Travis County. Now we can have a more affordable treatment option that provides intense service over a shorter duration with a goal of getting folks back into the community as quickly as possible."

To start, this facility will mainly accept patients from law enforcement referrals, with no walk-ins or self-referrals. The center plans to open for these internal referrals on Aug. 8.

Additional mental health services are available through the Integral Care's 24/7 Crisis Helpline at 512-472-4357. The Integral Care's Psychiatric Emergency Services have a walk-in clinic for adults and children having a mental health crisis.

To learn more about the Herman Center, you can click here.

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