Starting as soon as next month, Dane County plans to operate a new resource center that aims to bridge public and private providers of mental and behavioral health care to make the system easier to navigate for patients.
The Behavioral Health Resource Center, located at 818 W. Badger Rd. in the same facility as other county resources, is envisioned to be a connection point for patients and their families to access appropriate resources and the assistance to transfer care between two entities.
“You can call the Behavioral Health Resource Center, and you’ll get a live person who will stick with you and help plug you into the systems,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Monday at a press conference. “This center will be able to provide guidance to you and help connect you to the help that you need.”
The Behavioral Health Resource Center is the result of a grant program named in honor of C.J. Tubbs, the son of county Emergency Management Director Charles Tubbs, who died last year after struggling with addiction and mental health challenges.
“This is here today because C.J. Tubbs lived, and we couldn’t have more respect or be more proud to have the Tubbs family here today,” Parisi said. “Because they stepped forward, a difference is going to be made in real people’s lives every day.”
Parisi and mental health care providers announced plans for the Behavioral Health Resource Center last November. The county-funded project requires more than $1 million per year to operate and is included in Parisi’s 2021 budget proposal.
The resource center’s services are coming at a time when they’re needed more than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It seems like yesterday we were talking about the beginning of this project and little did we know we’d be in the middle of a pandemic at that time that would make it that much more important,” said Beth Lonergan, the director of behavioral health services at UW Health, noting an increase in anxiety and deaths by overdose.
The center is scheduled to start operating in November with initial operating hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and navigational support available outside of normal business hours. For the foreseeable future, the building will be closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Dane County hopes to have its 24/7 service operational early next year.
“We know that access to mental health care is more important than ever,” Sarah Valencia, director of Population Health and Addiction Services at UnityPoint Health–Meriter, said in a statement. “Prioritizing and growing these services is essential for our community now and into the future.”
Dane County will run the center using the same model used with the county’s Aging and Disability Resource Center in which people are provided with a direct link to the services they need. The center will be led by a social work supervisor and staffed with clinically-licensed behavioral health resource specialists, case managers and a peer support coordinator.
Lonergan said the center will provide trauma-informed support and guide people looking for services through that journey.
“I think the importance of the center really is around the ability for people when the time is right to have that no wrong door available to them, which is critical to getting into services,” Lonergan said.
The county’s Behavioral Health Resource Center Workgroup, which includes a cross-section of agencies across the public and private sectors, has formed partnerships with behavioral health care providers, insurers and other community groups, like NAMI Dane County, to improve access to services.
“It’s exciting to see that this will be up and running in the next few months, so people will get the support they need,” NAMI Dane County’s executive director Anna Moffit said. “The Behavioral Health Resource Center will really serve as a critical tool to get people the help they need when they need it.”
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