Mental Health: Orange County Approves $3 Million For New Crisis Stabilization Units

Orange County is embarking on a major upgrade of its emergency mental health services.

On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved $3 million for new crisis stabilization beds that will provide 24-hour emergency services to patients experiencing a psychiatric crisis. Currently, the county has just one, 10-bed unit available for the county’s 3.1 million residents.

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, who serves as a member of the county’s mental health ad-hoc committee, said that the additional crisis stabilization beds will bring much-needed relief for Orange County’s emergency rooms.

“On any given night, our emergency rooms are busy addressing mental health issues instead of delivering potentially life-saving medical care,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, who co-hosted a March public forum on the county’s mental health services with Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett. “By expanding the number of crisis stabilization units, we’re improving the quality of medical care for everyone in Orange County.”

2014 investigation by the Orange County Register revealed that local “emergency rooms have turned into virtual boardinghouses for psychiatric patients.” Mental and behavioral health experts say that crisis stabilization units offer a better solution. Crisis stabilization units provide psychiatric evaluation, medication, counseling and education, referrals and linkages to care for individuals experiencing a psychiatric crisis.

In addition to freeing up space in Orange County’s emergency rooms, the new crisis stabilization beds are expected to help in the county’s response to homelessness. In 2015, Orange County taxpayers paid the Medi-Cal bills for 5,918 homeless patients that accessed local emergency rooms, with many of these patients in need of mental health services.

Orange County oversees approximately 200 programs and services, ranging from case management to crisis intervention. Earlier this year, Supervisor Andrew Do asked for the public’s input on identifying ways to improve the county’s mental and behavioral health services. To make it easier for the public, Supervisor Andrew Do released budget documents and background materials outlining the programs and services provided under the county’s $323 million mental health services budget.

“This is a win for everyone who took the time to show up at our mental health hearing,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do. “The public’s input was essential in our ability to secure this funding.”

The $3 million in crisis stabilization funding is the result of the county’s successful grant, provided through Senate Bill 82, the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act.

Last month, State Senator John Moorlach delivered on the county’s request for greater flexibility over its mental health spending. In July, the California Department of Health Care Services administratively implemented Senate Bill 1273, fulfilling the county’s request to allocate mental and behavioral health funds for crisis stabilization services.