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New mental health crisis center is already diverting patients from ERs, but has room to grow

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New mental health crisis center is already diverting patients from ERs, but has room to grow

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Behavioral Health Crisis Center is taking in patients nearly every day, but the numbers are far below capacity in the initial month of operation.

BHCC in Iwilei, a first-of-its-kind program in Hawaii, opened on March 8.

Since then, 58 people were screened, half of them were admitted for treatment.

The other half could not be admitted and some were considered unsafe to be there.

One of the reasons: A seclusion room with padded walls and other safety features is not ready.

The seclusion room is crucial to hold those who are a danger both to staff and themselves.

The renovation project for that room could take a few more months.

Another reason the BHCC isn’t maxing out the 25-space capacity — current law doesn’t allow police or paramedics to drop off patients classified who need immediate mental health treatment.

Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Iwilei(Kawano, Lynn | None)

Pending legislation would change that, allowing first responders to drop off people at the center instead of taking them to an emergency room — where they are often forced to wait hours.

The BHCC is staffed with nurses, case managers and psychiatrists. It is not a homeless shelter but can take in homeless people who need short-term psychiatric care.

“We wanted to open up the facility partially because of the need in the community,” said Dr. Chad Koyanagi, of the Department of Health’s Adult Mental Health Division.

Koyanagi said the program’s mission was especially important after Wahiawa General Hospital temporarily closed its emergency room.

Most of those who visited the center in the past month were referred through crisis outreach. Community referrals and walk-ins also made up the initial 58.

Koyanagi expects the center to be fully operational by the end of the year at a cost of $6.7 million per year. That’s far less than it would cost if those patients ended up in emergency rooms, he said.

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