Senator John McCoy visits the Snohomish County Triage Center

Senator John McCoy visits the Snohomish County Triage Center

Everett, WA - Talks are starting now on how to continue to support and possibly expand the services of the successful Snohomish County Triage Center (SCTC).

Designed to help respond to adults in crisis, the Snohomish County Triage Center provides a warm, secure and safe place where individuals experiencing behavioral health crisis can receive immediate care and follow-up referrals for treatment.  Last year there were 1,566 referrals to the SCTC, and of these 1,144 (73%) were accepted.  Of the remaining 27% not accepted, 13% were denied.  137 people required a higher level of care and 12 people were turned away due to issues of capacity.

Senator John McCoy (Tulalip) is interested to seeing how to lower that number to zero. “I’m pleased that the Washington State Legislature is making mental health a priority in our funding despite the tough economic times – Compass Health has been a solid partner in providing critical services to our communities.”

The benefits of having the Snohomish County Triage Center in existence are already apparent in the three years since the Triage facility has been open.  This past year at the request of Governor Inslee, the state legislature passed legislation to expand nursing care to 24 hours at Triage facilities.

 “I had no idea what to expect and was very apprehensive.  After I was checked in, assigned a bed and offered a healthy meal with milk and fresh fruit, I became aware of how caring the staff is here.  Over the next two weeks my appetite started to return, my post-traumatic stress calmed down and my primary care provider has diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa.”  Says a Triage patient of her time at the SCTC – name withheld to protect her privacy.

According to Chris Starets-Foote, the Director of Inpatient, Triage & Residential Care Facilities at Compass Health, the Triage Center has been able to significantly reduce the utilization of local hospital emergency services for non-emergency uses and thus reduce the cost to the tax payer.  “We have also been able to divert those with mental illness and those under the influence of drugs or alcohol from the criminal justice system, and instead provide assessment and evaluation to determine the need for hospitalization.  We’ve been able to link those in need with the appropriate community resources.”

In 2011, in an effort to find a cost-effective alternative to local jails and emergency department as the first responders to mental illness, Governor Gregoire signed a bill introduced by Rep. Mary Helen Roberts (Edmonds) authorizing Triage Units to be funded around the state, allowing community health providers to be able to evaluate mentally ill individuals who had been arrested for non-felony crimes.  Currently, only Law Enforcement and other medical institutions can request admission to the SCTC.

“I was at the end of my rope, my coping skills and my health.  I had no money to speak of and no place to sleep.  I was in a very fragile state in every way possible.  The Snohomish County Triage Center was a virtual haven in the midst of an extremely stormy time of my life, a lighthouse and beacon of hope for me.” 

The Adult Behavioral Health Task Force is charged with examining reform of the Adult behavioral health system and began its work May 1st of this year and must report its findings by January 1, 2015.