As reported in Newsday
Diagnostic, Assessment and Stabilization Hub staff members look on Friday during the ribbon cutting ceremony in Hauppauge for Long Island’s first round-the-clock crisis stabilization center. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca
A crisis center that will provide 24-hour help for people seeking substance-abuse and mental health treatment will open Monday in Hauppauge.
The center is designed to provide on-the-spot evaluations, link people to needed longer-term services and provide an alternative to hospital emergency rooms, which often do not have the expertise to immediately help people with psychiatric or substance-abuse issues, said Karen Boorshtein, president of the Huntington-based Family Service League, a nonprofit that will operate the center, called the Diagnostic, Assessment and Stabilization Hub.
“What we’re doing here today is to really start saving lives,” Arlene González-Sánchez, commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, said at the center Friday.
DASH will have social workers and nurses available 24 hours a day. Specialized nurse practitioners, who can write prescriptions, will be on duty 16 hours a day, and psychiatrists will be on call, Boorshtein said.
About $4.7 million in state and federal funds was used to create and set up the center, according to the state substance-abuse office.
Suffolk County proposed the center several years ago after people with mental illnesses and substance-abuse problems, and their families, complained about gaps in services, said Ann Marie Csorny, director of Suffolk County’s Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services.
Someone who, for example, called a crisis hotline or walked into an emergency room at midnight on Saturday often was told to call an organization that could help them the following Monday, Csorny said. Many people never made that phone call.
Boorshtein said: “The importance of getting someone in quickly cannot be underscored enough. It takes a lot for that person to say, ‘You know today is the day I need help.’ You have to strike while the iron’s hot.”
David Morrissey, 62, of Smithtown, said the new center, which he called “long overdue,” may have helped his son, William, who died at age 30 in December 2016 of chronic cocaine and heroin use.
Morrissey said he took his son to hospital emergency rooms several times, including on weekends. His son was given a referral to visit a psychiatrist or nonprofit a few days later but didn’t always keep the appointment.
“Sometimes the window of opportunity is a half-hour before someone decides ‘I don’t want help anymore,’ ” he said.
Suffolk police were involved in discussions on the center. Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said some thefts and other crimes stem from people stealing to get money for drugs.
“If individuals are getting treatment rather than trying to get their next high, it’s absolutely an opportunity to reduce crime,” she said.
DASH has access to the electronic calendars of a growing number of mental health and substance-abuse organizations and can make appointments even when those groups’ offices are closed, leading to appointments being set up more quickly and at locations most convenient for the client, Boorshtein said.
As part of DASH, Family Service League in November began operating a decades-old, state-funded mobile crisis team — which travels to people’s homes and to schools and businesses — and on Monday will begin running a 24-hour crisis hotline that previously had been state-run, “so we [can] have one seamless provider” of services, Csorny said. The service league will be able to easily keep track of clients and follow up with them to ensure they are getting care, she said.
The county hopes to eventually open other DASH locations, including on the East End, to make them more convenient for residents countywide, she said.
Today, many people wait for hours in hospital emergency rooms for help or referrals, with some “either leaving or having the symptoms get worse because of the setting,” Csorny said.
Others travel to the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Stony Brook University Hospital. Yet that service is primarily geared toward evaluating those who are in an acute mental health crisis and may be a danger to themselves or others, requiring possible hospitalization, said Kristie Golden, associate director of operations at Stony Brook Medicine.
CPEP was involved in planning DASH, and officials from the programs are designing guidelines for the crisis hotline staff and others on whether to direct people to CPEP or DASH. Some of the more than 8,000 people who CPEP evaluated last year may have been more appropriate for DASH, Golden said.
“When people go to the right place for the right service, it’s better for everyone all around,” she said.
Nassau County does not have a crisis center such as DASH, but there are services throughout the county that people with a mental health or substance-abuse crisis can access, said Omayra Perez, director of the county’s Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services. A mobile crisis team — similar to the one in Suffolk — offers help 24 hours a day, she said. A state-funded mobile recovery unit for people addicted to opioids that includes an RV with treatment rooms and professional staff was unveiled Monday.
The Family Service League’s Diagnostic, Assessment and Stabilization Hub opens Monday. It is at 90 Adams Ave., Hauppauge. Walk-ins are welcome.
If you are having a mental health or substance-abuse crisis or need treatment, call 631-952-3333 in Suffolk County and 516-227-8255 in Nassau County.