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North County Inland Crisis Center approved in Escondido

ESCONDIDO — A North County Inland Crisis Center has been approved to open in Escondido.

According to San Diego County Behavioral Health Director Alfredo Aguirre, a crisis center is greatly needed in North County.

“(North County) is just not as well-stocked with services,” he said.

The crisis center is a transitional level of care, where people with mental health and substance abuse issues can go who aren’t quite in need of hospital services but also aren’t able to remain at home.

“Basically it’s seen as an alternative or a follow-up service that can be provided to people that, without it, would wind up in the hospital for psychiatric reasons,” Aguirre said.

The addition of the North County Inland Crisis Center will relieve the burden of local hospitals to care for patients who are stable enough for a residential care facility but not ready to care for themselves.

The facilities help patients re-assimilate into society.

“What they do is stabilize the individual, get them squared away and get them a strategy to go back into the community to make sure they connect with housing and have appropriate housing and treatment,” Aguirre said.

He said the center’s community based programs can also help the intermittently homeless people who can’t always find housing when they’re discharged from hospitals.

The crisis centers help patients get continuous healthcare, which Aguirre said is a problem with people who have long-standing mental illnesses.

“They tend to have a (mortality) rate of 20 to 25 years less than the average person,” Aguirre said. “It’s not the mental illness that kills them, it’s the lack of access to healthcare.”

He said the programs link patients to a primary care provider to avoid reliance on emergency-related healthcare.

Aguirre said the center will be more residential in nature and stays generally range from nine to 14 days.

“It’s meant to be short-term as a transition to another level of care and another level of shelter or housing,” Aguirre said.

He said that aesthetically, the centers don’t look institutional and are intended to feel homey and comfortable.

Once completed in April of next year, the North Inland Crisis Facility will be the seventh of its type in the county.

The center will have 14 beds and 24-hour service.

The facility is under construction at 606 East Valley Parkway on a piece of property the county owns.

The County Board of Supervisors approved spending $4 million on the project at a meeting Feb. 3.
The project is funded through a state grant which was passed two years ago, SB-82 Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act.

It provides funds for the actual building of facilities.

The site is home to a county operated family resource center. The family resource center will move in the summer.

A portion of the existing building will be renovated and additional buildings will be added.

Aguirre said he doesn’t expect a negative reaction from the community because the program has been tested at the six other facilities throughout the city.

“Very rarely do we get an issue raised in the community,” he said. “If someone was a threat to themselves or others, they would be in a hospital setting or a long-term care facility.”