FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Northwest Arkansas Crisis Stabilization Unit is set to open sometime in August after being closed in 2021.
The unit located on 105 N Mill Avenue in Fayetteville will reopen under a new provider, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
In 2017, lawmakers created four crisis stabilization units across populous areas in Arkansas under Act 423. The units are located in Pulaski County, Sebastian County, Washington County and Craighead County.
According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services website, the units were created to be alternatives to jails and emergency rooms for people in crisis who encounter law enforcement.
Washington County Judge Joseph Wood said he was one of the original county judges petitioning to have a unit located in Northwest Arkansas.
"it has been largely about giving tools for law enforcement officers so they can make a decision as opposed to prior having these crisis stabilization units, bringing people to the jail," Judge Wood said. "Now they have an option, you know what, it's voluntary. They will ask that person, hey we can take you over to the crisis stabilization unit, get you checked out, and get you stabilized."
The Washington County Crisis Stabilization Unit initially opened in 2019 but closed two years later in 2021. Ozark Guidance was the original provider that partnered with the county and state to open the unit.
"It becomes hard when you try to manage based on a year-to-year budget that the state is doing and so they decided not to renew their contract," the county judge said. "Then we went through the process of looking for another provider and UAMS said hey we want to partner with you."
Kristen McAllister of UAMS is the Program Director for the Washington County crisis stabilization unit. Under UAMS, the unit received a few modifications but will continue to provide 16 beds, services, and referrals.
"Our goal is to assist folks through that crisis and along their road to recovery," McAllister said.
UAMS will now be the provider for two of the four crisis stabilization units in the state. It became the provider for Pulaski County since its opening in 2018. According to the UAMS website, it is the state’s first nationally-accredited unit and the first UAMS program to be accredited by CARF International.
"UAMS has been running the crisis stabilization unit and Pulaski County for about four years now," McAllister said. "So, when UAMS chose to take on this unit, I think it was with the intention of making it a successful unit for the community."
Lisa Evans is the Program Director for the Pulaski County Regional Crisis Stabilization Unit. Evans explained that in four years, the unit has seen thousands of patients, or about 60 to 70 patients a month. With UAMS now providing for the two units, Evans expects efficiencies to be created.
"We can share resources share providers, I've been helping out here, they can help us out down there," said Evans. "But really it's a commitment to partnerships. It's kind of a new model. We really care about helping people get engaged in services and diverting them from the justice system. We're really committed to that as a University."
Evans explained that it was an uphill climb as they've experienced difficulties hiring and securing staff. Evans affirmed that she felt UAMS and organizers of the unit would be dedicated to the Northwest Arkansas Unit for the long term, especially with experience from Pulaski County. The program director reiterated the importance of the services for mental health patients, urging lawmakers to continue funding the units.
According to Kristen McAllister, the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Stabilization Unit should begin admitting patients sometime in August.
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