April 1 marks the opening of a new facility in San Luis Obispo County aimed at providing mental health services. The county’s Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) is designed to provide urgent treatment to those with psychiatric emergencies.
The CSU is located in San Luis Obispo behind the county’s health agency and down the street from French Hospital.
County behavioral health director Anne Robin describes the purpose of the new facility.
“This CSU - this Crisis Stabilization Unit - is really a tool that we haven’t had, it’s a missing piece in our toolbox,” Robin said. “As many of you know, we only have 16 psychiatric beds in the entire county, and send upwards of 300 people, every year, out of county to hospitalizations.”
In 2017, that number spiked to 500. Yet the new facility has just four beds right now.
“This is not going to solve all the needs, sorry guys, sorry Sheriff, it’s just not going to fix it,” Robin said. “Four beds is a good start though.”
Clients can only stay there for 23 hours and 59 minutes max. And they first must go to an emergency room, as the new unit’s nursing supervisor, Jessica Simpson, explained Thursday during a grand opening party.
"So initially, we're going to have everyone kind of cleared through the emergency rooms, just so that we can ensure that there's no medical emergencies that are happening here in the CSU,” Simpson said. “At a later date we do plan on taking community based referrals. But for right now it’s [through] an emergency room and through our MHET [Mental Health Evaluation Team] crisis team.”
Simpson says the unit won’t take dangerous clients - people threatening to harm other people or have a plan to harm themselves. It is supposed to more a hub for certain people to get access to mental health services and stabilize.
In 2013, the California legislature passed the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act. It provided just under a million dollars to San Luis Obispo County to build the CSU. The county kicked in another $300,000.