A planned behavioral health crisis center in east Winston-Salem will now include a physical health component through a joint venture by Novant Health Inc. and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The health-care systems have agreed to operate an 8,339-square-foot primary care center providing physical and other direct treatment care within the 43,000-square-foot building at 650 Highland Ave.
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved on Thursday an amendment to the lease that Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions has on the building and a 4.1-acre site. The amendment calls for the physical care clinic to operate for at least seven years.
In June 2015, the county commissioners approved a 40-year lease with CenterPoint Human Services to establish a behavioral health crisis center serving Forsyth, Davie, Rockingham and Stokes counties. Cardinal took over the lease when it acquired CenterPoint in July 2016.
It was announced June 25 that the Highland center is shifting from being a place with inpatient beds and round-the-clock care to one that would keep people less than a day and serve them primarily with chairs instead of beds.
“The original lease executed by CenterPoint did not include any provision for the primary care clinic,” Cardinal spokeswoman Ashley Conger said. “The resolution amends the use of the property to appropriately reflect the full intended use.”
The center is expected to include a community wellness center and administrative offices.
“We are engaging in collaborative efforts to better serve our community, including ideas for primary care and support of behavioral health issues that impact the residents of Forsyth County,” Dr. Stephen Motew, the president of the Novant’s greater Winston-Salem market, and Terry Williams, the chief strategy officer for Wake Forest Baptist, said in a joint statement.
An opening date has not been set. Forsyth County is holding its share of the center’s funding in reserve.
Billy West, the director of DayMark Recovery Services, which provides a variety of mental health and substance abuse services, said it makes sense to offer physical health care to behavioral health patients since physical issues, such as alcoholism, diabetes, high blood pressure, exhaustion and opioid addiction, can contribute to and even spark a behavioral health crisis.
“This center presents a fantastic opportunity to make our behavioral health system better fit the whole body care approach and, hopefully, help to keep more individuals from needing to go to the emergency department unnecessarily,” West said.
“We can help provide a better continuum of care together, such as helping individuals get to their doctor’s appointment and take their medicine as prescribed,” he said. “By being in the same building, someone can be helped for both needs rather than having to go across town or out of town.”
The primary goal of the planned behavioral health crisis center is to help ease overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms by diverting individuals experiencing a mental health and/or substance abuse crisis to the Highland center.
The center would allow law-enforcement authorities to safely hand off individuals in crisis rather than be required — as by law — to stay with them until they receive an initial examination.
The plan is to rotate a local police officer in shifts.
The center initially was scheduled to open in February as a 24-hour facility offering 16 beds for inpatient and residential psychiatric care.
The new plan is for a 23-hour urgent-care center offering 12 chairs, with patients typically being treated over an eight-hour period.
Individuals needing more than 24 hours of treatment likely would be transferred to Cardinal-affiliated facilities in Concord, Lexington and Statesville.
Cardinal said the “new configuration of services meets the original goals of members, hospitals, law enforcement, first responders and stakeholders for crisis and integrated care while providing a coordinated full continuum of care, including 24/7 access to crisis services.”
Conger said the center is being converted to a 23-hour care center “to ensure that the individual is quickly referred to the most clinically appropriate and timely services and supports.”
West said the decision to convert to a 23-hour urgent-care center for behavioral health “is fiscally sound and will treat a ton of people more than” what was originally planned.
For involuntary commitments, most will be sent to a crisis center typically within 10 to 23 hours if needed, West said. If hospitalization is necessary, he said, they will be sent to one of the four main Triad hospitals, Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services or a state facility.
For individuals requiring alcohol or drug detox, patients will be started on care before being transferred to a 24-7 crisis center.