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NCHSC to expand crisis services

New program fills gap in Minot region

Jill Schramm/MDN Lecia Lintvelt, clinical director at North Central Human Service Center, right, speaks in the Open Arms dayroom during a tour Friday. At left are Minot Police Capt. Justin Sundheim and Open Arms Program Administrator Joe Schmalz.

A new program to provide rapid response to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis is set to launch in Minot on Aug. 1.

The North Dakota Department of Human Services’ North Central Human Service Center in Minot held an open house Friday to give members of its community coordinating council and other key stakeholders a sneak peek at its new 24-hour, walk-in crisis stabilization facility.

NCHSC expanded Open Arms, its crisis residential unit, to accommodate this new treatment model. Open Arms is located at 18 Third St. S.E., Suite 800.

The facility enables people ages 18 and older who are experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis that does not require medical intervention to walk in or be dropped off for immediate help and support, according to NCHSC. They will be met by specially-trained crisis response team members who will help de-escalate the situation, provide short-term interventions and offer assessments for services or referrals to community providers for appropriate services.

John Butgereit, center director at NCHSC, said the first step at Open Arms is to ensure people are safe, and then to extend services, whether that is crisis intervention or just talking to support staff.

“We’re tailoring it specifically to their individual needs,” he said.

Open Arms offers a homelike atmosphere. There is both a quiet room for privacy and a larger day room that offers a non-threatening place to relax and watch television.

On June 1, NCHSC conducted a soft opening of the new drop-off unit with the Minot Police Department. Law enforcement and other first responders will have a designated area to bring individuals for immediate care that allows first responders to quickly return to their shifts.

Capt. Justin Sundheim with the Minot Police Department said officers who encounter people struggling with behavioral health issues need to be able to place them in the hands of people who can assist them with their crises.

“A lot of times we are in the business of referrals, and we want to point people in the right direction,” he said. “We need these community partners such as Open Arms. We respond when people don’t know who else to call, and so, we just want to make sure we get whoever it is on the right path. This is a great asset that is filling a gap within Minot.”

According to Butgereit, the program is a monumental shift in how NCHSC serves people in crisis. The goal is to get people relief quickly, while reducing unnecessary law enforcement involvement, emergency room use or inpatient hospitalization.

The expanded walk-in stabilization facility will be available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, including weekends and holidays, for everyone in the Minot region, not just individuals who receive services through NCHSC.

In 2020, the N.D. Human Services Department, through its eight regional human service centers, launched a comprehensive statewide behavioral health crisis response system that includes a three-digit crisis line (211) that anyone can call for help and mobile crisis response. The walk-in crisis stabilization facility is the final component to the behavioral health initiative implementation in Minot.

West Central Human Service Center in Bismarck, Southeast Human Service Center in Fargo and South Central Human Service Center in Jamestown have opened their walk-in crisis stabilization facilities. Efforts are underway to offer these services in the Devils Lake, Dickinson, Grand Forks and Williston regions, with several human service centers close to full implementation, the department stated.

Lawmakers authorized funding and additional full-time positions to enhance the 24-hour crisis response system during the 2019 legislative session. The human services department contracts with FirstLink 211 for the phone support services.

The department reported calls to the 24-hour crisis line grew from 156 calls in 2020 to 1,116 calls in 2021.

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