Vote fails on new mental health crisis services for Montgomery County; Hotline calls will transfer to 988

Mobile response teams, receiving center stopping services until new providers found.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Trustees failed to come to any agreements on crisis services in Montgomery County at Wednesday night’s Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board meeting when contracts for new providers failed to get enough votes and no new options were proposed.

Calls to the Crisis Now hotline will transfer to 988, while mobile crisis response teams and the Montgomery County Crisis Receiving Center are expected to stop services for now after RI International ceased its partnership with Montgomery County ADAMHS after providing a 14-day notice.

“Things are going to be worse tonight whether we approve these motions or we don’t,” said trustee Jill Bucaro. “That much is clear.”

Trustees Kevan Beamon, Bucaro, Teresa Russell and Jay Wainscott voted against a motion to approve two contracts for new providers, one for the Crisis Now hotline and the other for mobile crisis response team services. Trustees Sherry Gale, Jeffrey Startzman and Gregory West voted in favor of the contracts.

“This dumbfounds me that we would consider cutting this off when we have already appropriated this money and we know we need this service,” Gale said.

Trustees Victor McCarley, Margaret Patterson and S. Tyler Wright abstained from voting Wednesday.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

“I’ve taken suicide calls that were transferred to me from 988. I had a man on the ledge of the parking garage downtown Dayton, and they transferred this call to me,” said Paula Singleton, who worked at the Crisis Now hotline’s call center.

Singleton spoke in favor of the call center but against the policies of one of the proposed providers, Netcare, who only hires licensed clinicians. Dr. Brian Stroh, CEO of Netcare, said their malpractice insurance is not set up for non-licensed employees.

“I’d rather work for an organization that’s going to keep us together for the community because when somebody’s in crisis, we don’t have time to call other people to help us,” Singleton said. Singleton is not a licensed clinician, but she has a master’s degree in psychology, she said.

“988 calls us when there’s a crisis. A lot of agencies rely on us,” Singleton said. “...I want everyone to rethink this. Don’t just grab the first thing that comes up because you don’t want a gap. Grab the right thing. Keep us in place. The community loves us and trusts us.”

The staff’s recommendations for new providers had included Netcare Access, who would have been the provider for call center services to the end of the year for a contract amount of up to $515,000. DeCoach Recovery Centre, for a contract amount of up to $440,000, was proposed for the crisis mobile response team.

One staff member said the contracts for those two providers was a savings of more than $220,000 compared to the costs with RI International for those two services, not including the costs for the Montgomery County Crisis Receiving Center.

One local mother, who has a son with schizophrenia, said there was somewhat of a lack of compassion from other providers before RI International came on board in the community.

“Things are getting so much better. We shouldn’t go back,” said Michelle Campbell. She had tried 988 during a recent crisis with her son and was put on hold for an extended period of time, she said.

“When I called the other number, the representative from RI International was compassionate, understanding and got immediately on the situation,” Campbell said.

Others during Wednesday night’s meeting questioned what the difference would be between just having 988 answer calls versus Netcare, which is based out of Columbus and had a handful of local clinicians to take on Montgomery County’s calls.

“I’m not a believer that the world is ending,” said Montgomery County Probate Court Judge David Brannon.

Others in the community called for more collaboration with community stakeholders.

“The Montgomery County Association of Police Chiefs strongly objects to the approval of any new contracts and requests that the board immediately direct its director and staff to initiate an RFP (request for proposal) for a long-term contract for county-wide crisis services,” said John Porter, chief of police for the Butler Twp. Police Department, speaking on behalf of the Montgomery County Association of Police Chiefs.

The association has felt that, since the inception of RI International’s crisis services in the county, there has been “an extreme disconnect” between law enforcement and emergency crisis services in regard to the sharing of information, Porter said.

“The Montgomery County Association of Police Chiefs has lost confidence in the subsequent handling of the situation,” Porter said.

Montgomery County ADAMHS staff will be meeting with 988 representatives on Thursday, said executive director Helen Jones-Kelley said, to discuss crisis calls to 988, the national mental health crisis hotline.

“I’m very disappointed that we can’t meet the needs of our most vulnerable population,” Jones-Kelley said following Wednesday night’s meeting.

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