Mental health crisis center partially funded by ARPA opens in Montgomery

The walls are cool tones. Each private room has a bathroom, and the whole place is decorated with soothing paintings.

This is not your momma’s mental hospital. This is the Carastar Crisis Center.

“We really tried to focus on the environment,” Executive Director Donna Leslie said.

She said her main thought throughout the process was, “If I was going to have a family member come what would I want?”

All patients stay voluntarily at the crisis center, which will officially open Thursday. Short-term patients stay a maximum of 23 hours, and long-term patients stay a maximum of seven days, Leslie said.

Most people stay 11 to 12 hours. Leslie has found that this short amount of time can resolve most mental health crises.

In that amount of time, patients can see a prescribing doctor, shower and wash their clothes. From there, case managers at the crisis center can refer them to outside help.

When people in mental health crises end up in the emergency room, they can end up staying there for hours or even days, worsening their condition in the chaotic space, Leslie said.

The Carastar Crisis Center is not like that.

More: Mobile Crisis Unit Montgomery police work with area providers to help those in mental health crises

Ambulances and police vehicles can drop off patients. The goal is to get them out within 15 minutes of dropping off patients.

The public is ushered in through the waiting room in the front, where they are greeted by people with mental health training.

“Even the folks sitting at the front desk are trained professionals,” Leslie said. “Everybody who works that front desk is going to have at least a psychology background and be able to help to triage if they need to so that as soon as you walk in the door you’re being greeted by someone who knows what it’s all about and can help you out.”

Donna Leslie, Executive Director of Carastar Health Crisis Center, discusses the opening next week of the new Carastar Crises Center in Montgomery, Ala., seen on Friday March 31, 2023,

Donna Leslie, Executive Director of Carastar Health Crisis Center, discusses the opening next week of the new Carastar Crises Center in Montgomery, Ala., seen on Friday March 31, 2023,

The crisis center was made possible by American Rescue Plan Act money from the city and county. They allotted Carastar $5 million to create the space.

The building was originally an auto insurance business. It was 15,000 feet. Carastar added about 5,000 feet more to that to add private rooms with windows.

“This shows me when the community comes in and gives funding what I can do with that,” Leslie said.

A bedroom at the new Carastar Crises Center in Montgomery, Ala., seen on Friday March 31, 2023,

A bedroom at the new Carastar Crises Center in Montgomery, Ala., seen on Friday March 31, 2023,

Carastar has already been providing this type of care in its temporary crisis center at the same location. Since May 2022, the center has helped more than 400 people.

That site has eight temporary areas for patients to stay and four beds for an extended stay. The new center has 10 temporary spots and 16 extended-stay beds.

The first phase of the project began in May 2021, when Carastar’s mobile crisis teams started working with law enforcement to help people in mental health crises.

Alex Gladden is the Montgomery Advertiser’s public safety reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or 479-926-9570.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Mental health crisis center partially funded by ARPA opens in Montgomery

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