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Franklin County mental health crisis center to break ground next year

It’s the first crisis center in central Ohio to help those with mental illness and addiction issues.

Karri Dosmann of Columbus knows firsthand how quickly mental illness can change someone’s life.

When she sent her son Chris off to college at Washington University in St. Louis on an academic scholarship, she never imagined what would happen next.

Chris was diagnosed with schizophrenia and suddenly his promising life studying evolutionary psychology was over.

“We did not know what to do. Your life is just in chaos,” she said.

She wished when her son was diagnosed 14 years ago that there was a place where families could come to get answers about to deal with this new reality.

“We didn't have a clue what we were dealing with,” she said.

Thanks to a $50 million crisis center set to be built off Harmon Avenue on the city’s west side, the hope is no other family will be left helpless when dealing with a family member with a mental illness or addiction problem.

Another crisis center is set to open in Franklin County in 2024.  

Franklin County is providing $4.5 million, $10 million is coming from the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH), $8 million from local hospitals and $10 million from the City of Columbus. The rest will need to be raised through private donations.

“For the community to come together at this time and commit large amounts of money to this project will mean the world to many families who are just struggling who just don't know what to do,” Dosmann said.

The walk-in clinic is designed to help those not yet in crisis with 24/7 access to mental health experts. There will be a 23-hour observation unit, pharmacy, substance use disorder treatment services and a 16-bed stabilization unit for 24 hour stays.

“Our hospital emergency rooms are flooded with psychiatric crisis and we decided we can provide care in a more compassionate way if we come together," said Erika Clark Jones, CEO ADAMH Franklin County.

According to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction, as of August 11, there were 112 people on the state’s psychiatric hospital waiting list to get in.

Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare in Columbus had 32 people on a waitlist followed by Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital in Toledo with 31 and Summit Behavioral Healthcare with 26.

The state says 73% of those on the waitlist are forensic patients awaiting mental competency for court hearings.

The state says while waitlists existed prior to the pandemic, they have increased during the pandemic as a result of the need for isolation/quarantine units and single beds but space remains an issue.

However, the state is working to correct the issue through Senate Bill 2 which took effect in August.

“Courts can now divert nonviolent, misdemeanor offenses and send through probate court for treatment which can reduce hospital length of stays,” said Eric Wandersleben, spokesperson for Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Wandersleben said in the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, $32 million was set aside for substance use disorder crisis stabilization centers and $12 million for mental health stabilization centers.

According to ADAMH, the need for mental health services in Franklin County will grow 23% in the next 10 years.

It also projects 21% of Franklin County’s 1.3 million people will experience mental illness in a given year.

For people like Dosmann, she’s glad families in the future will have a place to go not only to get their loved ones the help they need, but also provide families a place to get answers about what it’s like to live with someone with a mental illness or addiction issues.

“You need to be able to come to try and come to grips with what is happening, to not only help the person that ill in your home, but also to keep yourself afloat,” Dosmann said.

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