Aug 16, 2022 - News

Crisis stabilization unit reopens in Fayetteville

Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

The Washington County Crisis Stabilization Unit, a behavioral health facility for people experiencing mental health crises, will reopen this month after a yearlong hiatus.

Why it matters: The unit is part of a state project intended in part to keep people with mental illnesses out of the criminal justice system. Police can take people to the facility instead of jail.

  • The unit is needed because Northwest Arkansas' growing population means there's need for more mental health services, and the facility helps free up beds at local hospitals, Washington County Judge Joseph Wood told Axios.

What's happening: The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is paying for staff for the facility and keeping its former director, Kristen McAllister.

A patient room inside the crisis stabilization unit. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

Details: The 16-bed facility at the former juvenile detention center in downtown Fayetteville can take adults with a broad range of mental health problems, including disorders and addictions, McAllister told Axios.

  • The unit is voluntary. People can be referred by police, emergency rooms, behavioral health services, family, friends or themselves, and they stay 72-96 hours, McAllister said.
  • UAMS is providing between 20-25 staff members, such as nurses and psychiatrists, who work with patients individually to determine how to help them. They may be prescribed medication, referred to longer-term inpatient care or set up for outpatient counseling services. The staff can also connect people to social services, such as affordable housing or food assistance, McAllister said.
  • Other than staffing, the unit is state-funded, and the county is in charge of stewarding the money and running the facility, Wood said. The county previously spent $250,000 to renovate the building.

Background: The unit shut down in summer 2021 because Springdale-based Ozark Guidance could no longer pay for the staffing after the state cut funding.

  • It originally launched in 2019 as part of a state pilot program created by Act 423 of 2017. Crisis stabilization units also opened in Sebastian, Craighead and Pulaski counties.

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