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Hennepin County to expand mental, chemical health crisis services on Chicago Ave.

MinnPost photo by Tony Nelson
The building is centrally located, near services used by many of Hennepin County’s high-risk adult residents.

New funding approved by the Hennepin County board last week will finance a major renovation of 1800 Chicago Avenue, home to the county’s chemical health services program. 

The project, which is budgeted at $4 million, will expand the program’s existing 50-bed detox space to 65 beds. The detox unit, located on the building’s third floor, will also expand to offer two distinct levels of withdrawal care. The county’s mental health crisis stabilization program will offer a 16-bed unit on the building’s second floor. The building’s first floor will house a combination of support services, including mental health and vocational assistance programs. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017.

Leah Kaiser, Hennepin County area manager for adult behavioral health, said that the idea behind the renovation project was to bring a variety of services together in one central location, where people in crisis can get the help they need — without having to travel long distances for follow-up care and referrals.

The services provided at 1800 Chicago Avenue, Kaiser said, will be “short term but holistic, with the intention of connecting people to long-term supports in the community.”

The building is centrally located, Kaiser explained, near services used by many of Hennepin County’s high-risk adult residents.

“The intention is not to draw people out of the community and into this location,” Kaiser said. “We are trying to provide an option located in a place where people are already spending time. We are close to the shelter system, the jail and the hospital.”

By locating services near each other, Kaiser said, the county will be able to help as many people in crisis as possible — while ensuring they get the follow-up care they need.

“People are already there,” Kaiser said. “They are familiar with the area. They are discharged or deposited into that neighborhood. We want to catch them where they are and provide a support system that will help launch them back into the community in a more stabilizing way.”

Two levels of care

The new withdrawal management program at 1800 Chicago Avenue will be significantly different from the “drunk tanks” of yesteryear, where inebriated people were picked up off the streets up by police and locked away until they sobered up.

The new county detox program will be split into two levels of care, Kaiser explained. Under the renovation plans, the program, which currently has beds for 50 clients, will expand to 5,900 square feet and 65 beds.

One level of care, Kaiser explained, will provide “individuals who are inebriated with a safe place to sober up.” Because it can take as long as 12 hours for the alcohol in an intoxicated individual’s blood to diminish, clients are provided with a safe space to sober up and monitored by staff until they are approved for discharge.

Leah Kaiser
Leah Kaiser

“For a lot of people, that is all they need,” Kaiser said. “Our data shows that close to 60 percent of the individuals who go to our detox program go there once and we don’t ever see them again. We don’t want to keep this group here for a number of days. We just want to give them a safe place to sober up — and off they go.”

The second level of detox care provided at 1800 Chicago Avenue is for individuals who are physically addicted to alcohol and need careful medical monitoring.

“Those are people who, if they don’t continue to consume alcohol, they are likely to show signs of withdrawal,” Kaiser said. “They get the shakes or get irritated or agitated. They might start to sweat. We will not discharge them in 8-12 hours, like the other folks, but we will medically monitor to make sure they detoxify safely. Those folks would potentially stay here for as long as two days. During that time we would be aggressively trying to get them into treatment because they have addiction to alcohol.”

Diversifying the billing structure will save money for the county — and the state — by making sure that they are reimbursed only for the specific services provided, Kaiser said.

Each client’s treatment needs will be determined at check-in. “Everybody who comes into the program gets an immediate assessment by a nurse,” Kaiser said. “The folks in the lower level of care will have a care specialist working with them but there won’t be a need for medical intervention, so you are not billing at the higher rate of a nurse. Those dollars saved will be used to focus on the people that are going to be moved to the medically monitored level of care.”

Crisis housing meets a need

The building’s mental health crisis residential housing unit will add 16 beds to a system that is already stretched thin, Kaiser said. Right now, Hennepin County has only one other mental health residential crisis stabilization program, providing temporary housing for 16 residents in acute mental health crisis. That program, Kaiser added, “always runs full.” At 8,300 square feet, the new facility will double the number of available beds in the county.

“We want to help individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis and give them the supports they need to get safely back into the community,” Kaiser said. “We’re trying to provide individuals that are experiencing a mental health crisis with the immediate services and supports that will reduce the cycling between shelters, jails and hospitals that often occurs with our high-risk clients.”

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