TWIN FALLS — The Crisis Center of South Central Idaho has been open since late last year, and an average of 42 to 45 people a week have been getting help there.

“We’re kind of proud,” Clinical Director Kim Dopson said. “We’re kind of happy with the way things are going.”

Of the 582 total visits in March through May, 306 came only once and 87 turned out to be non-episodes.

The center on Shoup Avenue West is the third such crisis center the state has paid to establish over the past few years; the others are in Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene. Someone having a mental health or drug abuse crisis can go there for help and stay for up to a day; then they are referred to other agencies that can give longer-term help.

The clients’ age has skewed a bit older than Dopson expected; in the second quarter of 2017, for example, 68 of the clients were ages 55-64, and 142 were 45-54. The overwhelming majority of visitors in the second quarter, or 448, were from Twin Falls County, with 109 from other counties in south-central Idaho and the rest from farther afield.

A majority of the clients, or 331 in the second quarter, had both substance abuse and mental health issues. When broken down by the main presenting issue, anxiety or depression was most common, at 120 visitors, followed by substance abuse at 117 and alcohol or drug withdrawals at 106. Of the clients, 286 either referred themselves or were referred by family or friends, with 79 referred by law enforcement or corrections, 58 by a psychiatric hospital, 44 by a doctor or hospital and 77 by other community groups.

What happens when you get checked in? First, Dopson said, there is a medical check, followed by mental health evaluations. You can stay for a day and get help from the staff, who at the end refer you to other substance abuse and mental health agencies that can continue your treatment. The place has a kitchen for snacks and individual bedrooms for the clients — a difference from the state’s other crisis centers which went with a dormitory-style layout. The center in Twin Falls is in a former medical office building, which lent itself to a different setup.

“Doctors’ examination rooms were a perfect fit to put a bed in,” Dopson said.

Also, she believes having individual rooms makes it easier for people to cope with their mental health issues.

“We really feel that sometimes, old traumatic events are the reason you’re having a crisis today,” she said.

The overwhelming majority of clients — 496 in the second quarter of 2017 — are referred to other substance abuse or mental health treatment providers when they leave. A majority are also referred to other support agencies, and to groups to help them with housing. It is estimated the center saved the legal system and hospitals $417,300 in the second quarter, by taking in people who otherwise may have gone to jail or ended up with a more extended hospital stay.

“They got some help,” said Teresa Thiemann, director of security and public relations. “They weren’t waiting in a hospital. They weren’t locked away.”

Thiemann, who is former law enforcement herself, said agencies in the area now bring people to the crisis center when appropriate rather than taking them to jail or for a more expensive hospital stay.

One question the center still has to figure out is how it will support itself after the state funds run out. The center has to have a sustainability plan done by the end of its second year of operation. Personnel costs have been particularly high, Dopson said — even when there aren’t many people in the crisis center, you still have to have a full staff in case people show up.

Some money could come from renting out conference and office space in the building. Dopson said the number of clients with health insurance has been a little higher than she expected, and the center is working on setting up a system to bill patients’ insurance companies. Some local companies and families whose loved ones have been helped at the crisis center have also expressed interest in donating, she said, and the center is looking into getting nonprofit status.

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