News Article Details

Mental health 'living room' to offer support, resources

Herald-Journal - 8/24/2017

Aug. 24--Plans were unveiled Wednesday for a "peer support living room" mental health facility where people can receive help as needed.

Behavioral health officials said it should open sometime this fall. The project is one-fourth the scale of what was originally envisioned.

It will be located in the former Access Health Spartanburg facility at 358 Serpentine Drive, between the Spartanburg Mental Health Center and Spartanburg Medical Center. Access Health moved to 631 N. Church St.

It will be called the Ray C. Eubanks Jr. Support Center, in honor of the retired probate judge who founded the former detox center in Spartanburg that closed seven years ago.

"We think there's a demand for this," said Tom Barnet, co-chair of the Spartanburg Area Behavioral Health Taskforce.

Barnet and Witt shared details of the center at a task force community forum held at Denny's headquarters downtown and organized by the United Way of the Piedmont.

Earlier this year, Barnet and Witt said they wanted to open a 24/7 crisis stabilization unit with a budget of $1 million a year.

Instead, Witt said the center will have about a $250,000 annual budget, to be funded by the United Way of the Piedmont and the state Department of Mental Health.

"We would love to have a crisis stabilization unit," Barnet said Wednesday.

However, the cost and scope of such a unit was simply too large for Spartanburg right now, he said, adding that it's still a possibility in the future.

Charleston Dorchester's Tri-County Stabilization Center is the only 24/7 mental health crisis unit operating in the state.

Barnet said the task force hopes the peer living room center can be used as a model for other cities across the state.

Witt said the center will likely operate Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and be staffed with a full-time peer support manager and a case worker. It will also have a reassurance support phone line staffed by specialists.

Besides a living room, there will be a small kitchenette area where clients can make coffee and get light snacks.

Witt said the peer living room model will be similar to one in Asheville, operated by C3356 Comprehensive Care Center, which offers group support in a home-like environment with a kitchen, dining table and spaces for talking, reading, listening to music or using a computer. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"This is a work in progress," Barnet said.

One man who attended the forum said he is concerned that many homeless people will hang out at the living room and occupy space intended for others.

Barnet said part of the goal is to connect people with other agencies or services that can meet specific needs, such as homelessness.

One person asked if the living room will include a detox center. Witt said the detox center is being developed on an outpatient basis by the Forrester Center for Behavioral Health in Spartanburg.

Another asked if the center will participate in the current fight against opioid abuse, which Barnet said the Forrester Center is also addressing.

He said the task force has been focused on "upstream" solutions that connect people with a mental illness with the help they need before they're in crisis. That in turn helps reduce emergency room visits and jail detentions, he said.

Barnet added that the task force is exploring how to transport people to and from the center who don't have a vehicle.

Phil Feisal, president of Spartanburg Medical Center, said the hospital's emergency department, which was remodeled, handles about 90,000 emergency room visits a year.

"A significant number (of those suffering a mental crisis) wind up in the emergency room area," he said.

He praised the living room model and efforts to prevent crises from happening.

"Like diabetes and high blood pressure, if you can maintain it, you don't run into the emergency room and have these crisis events," Feisal said.


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