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SPRINGDALE -- The Northwest Arkansas Crisis Stabilization Unit had 21 people referred to it in July, and seven were admitted for treatment, officials were told Thursday.

"We feel that is in line with what the other CSUs were seeing across the state," Kristen McAllister, director of crisis stabilization services, said Thursday.

McAllister is with Ozark Guidance Center, which provides professional staff and is in charge of the daily operation of the crisis unit.

McAllister gave the first monthly report on the unit to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, which oversees the operation. The 16-bed unit opened at the end of June. The committee also has been asked to study and evaluate the Washington County criminal justice system.

Fourteen of the people referred to the unit were from local law enforcement agencies and seven were referred by the Community Mental Health Center, according to the report.

The individuals admitted were a cross-section of the community and had a range of issues, according to the report. She said six of the people referred but not admitted were behaviorally unstable or presented a danger to themselves or others. Those people were advised to seek more acute care services.

Of the four men and three women who were admitted, McAllister said, four were deemed to be suicidal and one deemed to be self-harmful.

The average length of stay for those admitted was 44.6 hours, according to the report. The program is designed to house people for no more than 72 hours, McAllister said, but under some circumstances people can stay as long as 96 hours.

One person who was admitted checked out after about 1½ hours, she said. The program is voluntary and people admitted can leave at any time.

The Northwest unit is one of four in the state operating as a pilot program to determine how effective such facilities can be in diverting those with mental health issues away from the criminal justice system.

The unit in Sebastian County has been open for about two years. The Pulaski County unit opened in March 2018, while the Craighead County unit in Jonesboro is under construction.

Kathryn Griffin, justice reinvestment coordinator with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office, said the early numbers from Northwest Arkansas are encouraging. The Sebastian County unit saw 43 individuals taken there and 32 admitted in its first month, while the Pulaski County unit had seven referrals and three admissions in the first 11 days it was open.

The monthly report will be submitted to the state as part of the evaluation process for the pilot program.

Washington County Judge Joseph Wood said he is pleased with the increasing use of the unit. Wood said the county recently agreed to waive any fees to the cities and other counties served by the unit until January 2020.

The county also agreed to changes in its memorandum of understanding with cities and counties to alleviate concern about the unit's operation, he said.

Washington County Circuit Judge Cristi Beaumont, who oversees drug court, said the crisis unit should help people get services they need and reduce overcrowding at the county jail. Beaumont said when she was holding bond hearings one day at the jail, she asked the staff members whether they could identify any prisoner who might be a candidate for referral to the unit.

"They said, 'Yes, we've got just the right person here,' and that prisoner was sent to the CSU," Beaumont said.

Mike Reynolds, assistant chief of police for Fayetteville, said the department has made one referral to the unit that he knows of, and he expects the numbers will grow.

"With our population growing, and the numbers of homeless people and people with mental illness growing as well, we'll see more candidates for referral," Reynolds said.

Metro on 08/12/2019

Print Headline: State's NW crisis unit gets 21 referrals in July, admits 7

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