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Triage center bridges mental health treatment in Clark County

Clark County will see a boost to its mental health care offerings Monday when local nonprofit Lifeline Connections opens a crisis triage and stabilization program at its Crisis Wellness Center in west Vancouver.

Kara Seibert, Lifeline’s program director for crisis stabilization services, said the center’s mission is to divert people in a mental health crisis away from emergency rooms and incarceration.

“The emergency department is not the best place for someone who is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, nor is jail,” Seibert said. “This is a space where people can receive treatment, build resilience to future crises and transition back to the community.”

Major funding for the program was provided by the state Department of Commerce, state Department of Social and Health Services, state Health Care Authority, Beacon Health Options and Clark County, according to a Lifeline press release. In-kind support was provided by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.

The program’s triage component has room to help eight people for up to 23 hours. Lifeline CEO Jared Sanford said patients can be moved from triage to stabilization or start in the stabilization unit, which offers 16 beds for five- to seven-day stays.

The center is offering voluntary treatment and focusing on helping Medicaid patients, but the program will help patients who are uninsured or have commercial insurance.

“This is a unique program, one of a kind in the county,” Sanford said. “It’s trying to bridge the continuum of a short-term triage component with a stabilization component. You want to get folks who are in acute mental health crisis where they can heal, they can stabilize and they can continue on in treatment.”

Patients will be greeted upon arrival by a peer support specialist, someone who has lived experience with mental health struggles. Patients will have opportunities for one-on-one counseling and group counseling. The center features an outdoor area with a garden that patients can visit to relieve stress.

The staff of about 30 will include medical professionals, peer support specialists, substance use disorder professionals, mental health professionals, and other workers focused on connecting patients to housing and community resources.

Seibert said the peer support aspect is something that makes the facility unique. Peer support staffing is a more modern approach to mental health and substance recovery treatment. It’s an approach that has become more popular recently because peer support specialists can relate firsthand to the people they serve.

“A peer support specialist inspires hope, and that’s something someone going through a crisis really needs,” Seibert said.


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