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Bucks County Behavioral Health Crisis Center called “creative and bold”


Plans for a far more effective and comprehensive way to help those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse disorders are progressing in Doylestown, according to experts in the field.

Those involved with the innovative effort to create the Bucks County Behavioral Health Crisis Center recently gathered at Lenape Valley Foundation to share details about the first-of-its kind facility in Pennsylvania.

Sharon Curran, Lenape Valley Foundation’s CEO, said the pandemic was illustrative in showing how many in crisis were not always receiving the appropriate care in the appropriate place.

“The ER was their first touch point with behavioral services,” said Curran. While the emergency room can provide critical, immediate support, the new crisis stabilization center, she explained, will bring together behavioral health’s “best practices” to address the wide range of needs for those in crisis.

“Under one roof, the center will provide all the components of crisis service that are now fractured across our system, including mental health, drug and alcohol, intellectual disabilities, first responders, law enforcement, physical health, homeless outreach and other services,” the Doylestown-based behavioral health foundation said.

“It’s creative and bold,” said Doylestown Health CEO Jim Brexler, of the ambitious plan.

The 22,000-square-foot crisis stabilization center will be located next to Lenape Valley Foundation on the campus of Doylestown Hospital on West State Street. It’s the last piece of developable land the healthcare system owns, noted Brexler, citing the critical importance of the project.

The collaborative undertaking brought together Lenape Valley Foundation, Doylestown Health, Bucks County Department of Behavioral Health/Developmental Programs, Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Magellan Behavioral Health and the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Each is playing a pivotal role in the highly anticipated and greatly needed center, officials said.

“This is such a smart decision,” said Rachael Neff, Bucks County Director of Human Services. “It’s exactly what Bucks County needs.”

While “the mental health crisis has been in the spotlight the last few years,” said Bucks County Commissioner Chairman Bob Harvie, “it’s always been there. This is a very necessary and very important project.”

Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia, herself a licensed social worker, agreed. “It took a lot of courage from leaders to move forward with this,” she said.

The nation’s mental health services “have been in ruins since the 1980s,” she added. But, with the new center, improvement is coming, “rising like a phoenix.”

“Help is on the way,” said Marseglia.

Her fellow commissioner, Gene DiGirolamo, said the majority of those housed in the county’s jail and juvenile detention center have mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues.

The crisis stabilization center, he said, will offer families a place to turn when their loved ones are suffering. “Maybe this can be a model” for care, said DiGirolamo.

Among its many services, the center will offer 24/7 crisis telephone interventions, mobile crisis services and stabilization units that “embrace the Living Room Model” of comfort and care. There will be short-term residential treatment facilities, withdrawal management and secure crisis stabilization units. A full complement of behavioral health professionals, including psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, social workers, therapists and others will staff the center, said Curran. Approximately 7,000 people are projected to be served, annually.

The center is for Bucks County residents and there will be no cost to the patient, Curran said.

While no price tag has been finalized — they are pending completion of interior plans — officials said funding sources include opioid settlement funds and the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Groundbreaking is expected in early 2024.

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