New Center Brings Dedicated Mental ‘Urgent Care’ To Larimer County

Aug 12, 2015

Where do you go if your teenager is cutting themselves? Or you’re having a panic attack? Or you just need to talk at 2 a.m.?

Those are the types of situations Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislators had in mind in 2013, when they approved nearly $20 million for a statewide hotline, and both mobile and walk-in stabilization centers, like the new facility now open in Fort Collins.

“Basically it’s an opportunity for people to come in, 24/7 to meet with a licensed clinician if they are having any sort of behavioral health crisis,” said crisis services coordinator Teresa Sedlak.

Tucked behind a big parking lot on the north side of Riverside Drive, the center -- one of 13 in the state, and the only one in Larimer County -- is unobtrusive. SummitStone Health Partners is among several agencies partnering with the state to provide mental health crisis centers and ran a previous center in Fort Collins.

People can stay at the crisis center for up to 5 days. The common area was designed to feel welcoming, not clinical.
Credit Jackie Fortier / KUNC

Development specialist Chris Fine describes their services as “urgent care for your mind.”

“What this facility does is normalize behavioral health, that it’s really OK to walk in and be greeted and address whatever you have,” Fine said.

In 2013 Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislators approved nearly $20 million for a statewide hotline, and both mobile and walk-in stabilization centers, like the new facility now open in Fort Collins.
Credit Jackie Fortier / KUNC

Services coordinator Sedlak thinks the new facility will provide a more welcoming environment, rather than the clinical feel of a hospital. Overcoming the stigma associated with mental health crisis is a key aspect of the building.

“We’ve had people who make a lot of money who still need to chat with somebody because things aren’t going so well,” Sedlak said.“And we’ve had the homeless folks coming in because they need that extra support so it really is a snapshot of the entire population of this community.”

But what exactly happens when you walk in the door?

“If you’re in crisis, you’ll meet one of my support staff, somebody will be at the front desk to say hello,” Sedlak said.

“[They’ll ask] what are you doing, what’s going on, how can we help you? There will be some paperwork to fill out. Then we’ll grab a nurse, who will take you into one of our assessment rooms. You’ll sit in our assessment room and talk to the nurse, just to make sure everything is OK, that it’s not a medical issue.”

An assessment room, just off the lobby in the crisis center.
Credit Jackie Fortier / KUNC

A person in crisis can expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes with a clinician, who will determine what resources they may need.

“Do you need a hospital stay, do you need to come into our crisis stabilization unit, do you need a call tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., just to say ‘hey how are you doing?’ we just want to check in on you and say we care. It can go many different directions based on here.”

The majority of the time people leave the center at that point.

“Ideally, that person will leave and have some things in hand because having things in hand is often very comforting to a lot of people and they can practice and take heed of what they’ve left with, what they’ve agreed to with our clinician and be OK,” Sedlak said.

People who need longer term stabilization can stay for up to 5 days.
Credit Jackie Fortier / KUNC

If the person needs further stabilization, they may stay in a room at the center for up to 5 days at a time.

The crisis center is open to anyone 5 and up. The state will be evaluating all the centers to see what needs there are still to meet in each community.