BELLEFONTE — Centre County is looking to enhance its mental health crisis services with $3.85 million in state funding.
If received, the money will be used to improve response time and establish a crisis residential evaluation program. This comes in the wake of the broader community discussions about crisis services in the wake of the Osaze Osagie tragedy.
“As you know, crisis services has been a discussion ongoing in our community for years, but in particular the last two years,” county Director of Human Services Natalie Corman said during the July 6 Centre County Board of Commissioners meeting, at which the commissioners approved the application for two mental health services block grants from the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
The county submitted two letters of intent for the grants — one for $3 million to establish a crisis residential and evaluation site and one for $850,000 for the expansion of mobile crisis services in the county. Corman said Centre County was “granted the opportunity to fully apply” for the $3.85 million, which will fund two years of the programs. She said she believes that if the application meets all the financial, budget and program expectations, “that we will be awarded this funding for the next two years.”
The mobile crisis service money will allow the county to provide seven new mobile crisis workers.
“This means we will be having an individual who is ready to respond to the community as needed, whether that is a request from law enforcement, whether that is a request for an individual themselves or school districts or the emergency department … whatever the case might be. We have seen a need to enhance that staff level so we are quicker to respond,” said Corman.
The mobile crisis program is operated by the Center for Community Resources, which oversees the county’s crisis walkin center. She said the funding will allow for mobile workers available for people in crisis.
“This funding allows us to have staff available,” said Corman. The funding will also enable the county to add three certified-peer specialists to be available for mobile calls.
“That is unique to us. It is not a service that we provided before, but we really see the need to promote peers services, especially to people in crisis who are in their first time in crisis,” said Corman.
Corman said these additions will help address some of the recommendations made by the Task Force on Mental Health Services that was established by Centre County and the Borough of State College.
“While not a co-responder model … we absolutely see this as a partnership with our law enforcement that they are excited to do,” said Corman.
The $3 million grant will allow the county to finish the work it started when it established the Walk-In Center in 2019. At the time, officials had hoped to include a residential aspect to the program, but no provider bid on the service.
“We never let of go of that dream to have a residential service and a respite service in our community,” said Corman.
The county plans to convert a residential group home run by the Community Services Group into a crisis diversion program. CSG and the county will partner with Oasis LifeCare to provide psychiatric evaluation at the site “similar to the walkin center, but more advanced.”
People in a crisis will also be able to stay at the program for a one-to-sevenday period, with one long-term bed available for a 45-day period.
“So an induvial who doesn’t need the medical care at the level of hospitalization, but obviously is in a crisis and might not be able to go home for the first 24 hours, we can provide that,” said Corman.
The county will also use the funding to further enhance the ability to provide transportation for someone in a crisis, which was another recommendation made by the task force.
“It is another avenue for people who are in crisis … to get immediate help,” said Corman.