DESC’s new Crisis Solutions Center on 1600 South Lane Street (Image: DESC)
In the past, when Seattle police officers responded to calls regarding somebody exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, they had three options: 1) Take them to jail 2) Leave them be 3) Take them to the ER.
“None of those options work well or are very cost effective, and they don’t treat the causes underlying the behavioral problems,” Nicole Macri, director of Administrative Services at the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) said (see our previous coverage of the Center for background). “In fact, going to jail almost always disrupts care strategies. The options police had for handling these situations ran counter to resolving crises.”
With the opening of the new DESC Crisis Solutions Center this month, there will be a fourth option that is promising to change the system completely.
The reality of the situation. One of the center’s holding areas
Police, fire and medics in King country can now refer the mentally ill to the Crisis Center at 1600 South Lane Street, which offers a 72-hour rehabilitation program to help treat rather than punish those who need it.
“We do an evaluation and an assessment, we find out ‘Do they need access do food? Do they need rest?’ We give one on one counseling, intensive treatment,” Macri said. “We find out, ‘Can you meet your basic life needs?’ and we try to help them take care of those.”
The goal with the 72-hour program is to resolve the current crisis, then get patients connected to help or support services with a detailed discharge plan.
First responders at incidents involving mentally illness or a chemical dependency crisis have the referral option, but DESC will also have its own Mobile Crisis Team that can respond independently. The Mobile Crisis Team can be dispatched across the county to perform medical assessments and provide treatment directly.
County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg during the center’s recent open house
The central neighborhoods of the city where masses of humanity mix with regularity and so many people suffering from mental illness move through, live and work in or hang out around will likely see the most activity utilizing the new center. It can be a challenging situation for residents and businesses to decide how best to handle situations when somebody is not well, needs help and is causing a disturbance.
The Crisis Solutions Center will also offer a longer two-week step down program for those who need more than just the 72 hour treatment. If the patient still needs help after two weeks, short term housing will be found and the patient will be provided with a plan for moving forward. Overall, the center will have 46 beds with a 1:5 staff to patient ratio.
The Crisis Solutions Center is part of a larger Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) Action Plan. In 2007, the King County Council voted that 1/10 of 1 percent on sales tax revenue would go towards diverting mentally ill from jails and the ER by providing therapy and due treatment. Most of the funding for the new DESC center came from the tax.
Residents in the neighboring area met the crisis center with strong opposition last year, challenging the legality of the center as well as alleging that the center was in fact a jail (not allowed in the area under zoning codes) rather than a medical facility (allowed). A judge ruled in favor of the facility.
What I find troubling is “The precise daily cost of housing at the Crisis Diversion Center has not been determined, but it is expected to be less expensive than the present alternatives…”, as reported by the Seattle Times earlier this month: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2018828503_c. According to the Seattle Times article, the annual cost to run the Crisis Center is $3.5 million, in addition to the other parts of the extended program, which brings the total annual cost to $6.1 million.
The article states “The cost of incarcerating an unstable, mentally ill inmate in the jail’s psychiatric unit is about $300 a day…” The DESC estimates they will be able to serve 3,600 people a year with 16 beds. 16 beds and 365 days equates to 5,840 bed nights annually. $6.1 million dollars in annual operating costs equates to $1,044 per bed, per night.
How is $1,044 per night, per bed a cost savings over $300 a day in the jail’s psychiatric unit? I would hate to see taxpayer dollars go unaccounted for and slip thru the cracks due to mismanagement.
And don’t forget that that is just the “operating costs”. There are also the other costs. How many million for the construction/remodel costs? How much for the vehicles purchased? How much did city light spend upgrading the electical system – note the new large transformer in on the pole – who paid for that? What other funding will go into this project and not be noted in the $1,000 per day spend. Where are the skimmed funds going to?
The article mentioned that there are 24 extra beds in a secondary wing of the facility that inmates can “graduate” to after 72 hours, making it 40 beds total.
40 beds * 300 per bed * 365 days a year = $4,380,000 which comes out in a reasonable ballpark for what the city is estimating.
At 40 beds capacity * 365 days a year, divided by 3,600 inmates = an average stay of 4 days.
The jail’s psychiatric facility costs are not the only costs related to booking someone. There’s the public defender assigned to the case, there’s the court hearings, etc, etc…
Not only does this process cost lots of public money, but it also takes a long time (meaning the person stays locked up for many more days than necessary). From what I heard from project supporters, this how the bills really add up.
These numbers are interesting. At the community meeting Bill Hobson said the facility would serve a few hundred people a year. Looks like he straight-up lied to calm fears.
So another cut (a neighborhhoods cultural and economic death by a thousand cuts) to make this a ghetto dumping ground, a containment zone for what the rest of the city does not want. This DESC Jail Facility will be montiored and videoed for potential nuisance abatement and related civil suits. It is far from established here!
Lied, of course he and they lied!
They will also be billing Social Security, The VA, Medicaid, Insurance companies, and many other RPs with deep pockets.
See – the county money is garanteed, but, they can collect alot of fees on top of that. Total collections for DESC residents is likely to be more than double the published rate, but, you’ll never see the total. Transparency not intended.
Tom, actually, misdemeanor cases whether for those housed in psych or not, are heard the very next day in Seattle Municipal Court inside the jail, with the exception of Sundays. Felony cases have 3 days to file (again, regardless of whether the person is housed on the 7th or the 9th floor of the jail), and probable cause hearings are usually the very next morning after bookings, again except on Sundays. All person’s charged with a crime – again regardless of their jail housing status, psych or not – are provided counsel at their first hearing, and thereafter if they qualify financially. There are no extra days in jail for people on the psych unit unless they refuse to come to court, which happens with people withdrawing from drugs or alcohol (they want to sleep) on every floor, and more often in general population than anywhere else.
I PERSONALLY SPENT TIME IN BILL HOBSONS DESC AS A CLIENT TO SEE WHAT WAS ACTUALLY BEING DONE TO ASSIST/ELIMINATE “HOMELESSNESS”. JUST ASK JON FOX AND CHECK BILL HOBSONS FINANCIALS AND YOU WILL SEE HOW LUCRATIVE HIS “PIMPING THE HOMELESS” HAS BEEN FOR HIM AND HIS ORGANIZED CRIME RICO RACKETEERING DOWNTOWN POLITICAL VAMPIRES (FOLLOW THE $$$ MILLION S$$)WHILE THEY PREPARE TO ELIMINATE HOUSING FOR THE “LESS FORTUNATE” IN YESLER TERRACE?????? JUSTICE=PEACE!!! OMARI TAHIR, 66 YEAR RESIDENT OF AFRICATOWN/CENTRAL DISTRICT, HISTORIAN AND WATCHMAN
Hmm. Something we can all agree on. Omar, you got some sense still rattling around in that old fat head of yours.