North Idaho Partnership for Mental Health

Helping Idahoans with Mental Illness & Substance Abuse

Heritage Health and the Northern Idaho Crisis Center are treating people with severe mental health problems by working together.

The results have been lifesaving, said Dr. David Wait, Director of Mental Health at Heritage Health.

“This kind of partnering reflects what I love most about North Idaho:  When faced with people in need, the people and organizations in this area set aside individual interests and advantage and do whatever it takes to help,” said Dr. Wait. “The challenges of our growing community make a partnership like this one essential to the health of not only these people in need, but the area in general. I'm very pleased this partnership has been so mutually supportive and has proven so effective.”

The Northern Idaho Crisis Center, which is operated by Kootenai Health, provides care for about 100 patients a month. Roughly 20-25 percent of the patients are then referred to Heritage Health for additional medical and mental health treatment, said Don Robinson, manager of the Northern Idaho Crisis Center.

“The Crisis Center itself is a result of a community effort to bring mental health services for people in crisis,” said Robinson. “And that's how it works on a practical level - it's a tremendous community effort. We work closely with Heritage's homeless outreach team. It's literally a lifesaver.”

The state-funded facility, which opened in 2015, serves men and women from the 10 northern counties, ages 18 and older, who need help with mental health or substance abuse issues.

The crisis center, located at 2915 Ironwood Court on the Kootenai Health campus, is open 24 hours per day. It has 20 beds, half for men and half for women. Patients typically stay less than 24 hours. Medical professionals at the crisis center help those patients access community resources, such as St. Vincent de Paul of North Idaho.

The Northern Idaho Crisis Center offers short-term care for people with substance abuse issues and severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Often those substance abuse problems and mental illness go hand in hand, said Dr. Wait.

“Those people who have a substance-use disorder and one of these mental health disorders often have crises which have very much benefitted from the rapid stabilization and support the crisis center has offered them,” he said. “In several cases I have been involved with it has been lifesaving.”

The two organizations work closely together to serve the region.

“The crisis center has been very responsive to helping our shared patients when they have been having trouble, and has been particularly helpful in communicating with our staff in coordinating plans for when they leave the crisis center,” said Dr. Wait. “I've personally had nothing but strongly positive responses from the patients whom I treat that have used the crisis center in time of need.”

 --Written by Marc Stewart

Read original blog in the Coeur d'Alene Press


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