ESCONDIDO – Palomar Medical Center in Escondido announced the opening of its new mental health crisis stabilization unit (CSU), the first of its kind in San Diego County.
The new two-story, 6,000-square-foot building can hold up to 16 patients and will serve as a temporary refuge for people needing immediate care for a psychiatric crisis. Patients who qualify to enter the short-term facility can stay up to 24 hours before being discharged home or into the next level of care.
Crisis stabilization is not comprehensive medical care, but a direct and quick approach to behavioral challenges.
The CSU was created in collaboration with the county’s Behavioral Health Services in response to an increase in behavioral health patients in emergency departments countywide and in an ongoing effort by the county to invest in services that are more accessible to residents.
Don Myers, district director at Palomar Health’s Center for Behavioral Health, told The Coast News that, before this new facility, behavioral health patients who needed crisis stabilization would visit the emergency department in Escondido then would have to be transported to Palomar’s previous downtown location.
“Because it’s located really close to the emergency department, this will really help with timely access to care. It will cut the access to care by hours,” Myers said.
Myers said that the facility will be available to underserved members of the community, and the county will reimburse Palomar for those patients’ care. The county also helped pay for a portion of the building itself.
“This new facility not only meets the needs of our growing community, it also fulfills a promise Palomar Health has made to take care of the most vulnerable residents in our community,” Palomar Health President and CEO Diane Hansen said in a statement.
The unit will be staffed with psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, crisis stabilization specialists and peer support specialists.
“Peer support specialists are people who have lived experiences, so they have a mental illness that they’re in recovery from,” Myers said. “It’s a great addition to our clinical team because they can talk to people in crisis in a way that those of us who don’t have a mental illness can’t.
Myers added that they plan to hire more staff once all processes are in place and as demand grows.
The completed facility had been in the works since 2016. Up next, says Myers, is a 70-bed psychiatric hospital on the Escondido campus.