Chelan County Commissioners are looking at an Arizona behavioral healthcare provider as a possible model for a regional diversion center planned for North Central Washington. 

Commissioner Kevin Overbay visited the centers in Phoenix and Tucson with Douglas County Commissioner Marc Straub. 

Overbay says the operations do not focus on inpatient care but send people in crisis to partner providers for care. 

"It is meeting the person where they're at, providing what outpatient needs, getting them directed correctly," said Overbay. "So, getting them out of their crisis, or if they're pre-crisis, stabilizing them. But once they're stable, they basically do a case management piece on these folks." 

Commissioners from Chelan, Douglas Grant and Okanogan counties are working on a joint effort to deliver a standardized level of care for people with mental health issues. 

The Arizona provider, Connections Health Solutions, is already coming to Washington, having announced last week that it's opening a mental health crisis care center in Kirkland. 

King County invested $11.5 million to create the center, the first of its kind in the area, according to a March 8 news release from Connections Health.  

The facility will provide services including walk-in behavioral health urgent care, stabilization support and crisis response treatment.  

Once completed in 2024, the Kirkland center is projected to treat more than 14,000 individuals annually, according to the release. 

Overbay says Connections Health's focus on outpatient care in Arizona could work well in fulfilling the needs for mental health care here. 

"This may be an option for us in North Central Washington," Overbay said. "Here we were, we were planning up to a 50-bed facility. And it's like, they told us, you don't need 50 beds."

The Phoenix center serves a population of more than four million people and has a bed capacity of only 50 beds.

Overbay filled in fellow Chelan County Commissioners Shon Smith and Tiffany Gering on his trip to the Arizona facilities at Monday's commissioner meeting. 

He said Connections Health was looking to open to five facilities in King County. Overbay also said he planned to visit the provider’s rural crisis center facility in Bozeman, Montana at some point. 

The regional program in the planning stages for North Central Washington is meant to ultimately cover a wide range of services including prevention, post care assistance, housing, training for jobs and food services  

There is a myriad of services the four counties collectively are trying to get into a single organized program.   

A number of funding sources are being looked at, one of which will likely require public support in the form of a county sales tax increase. No specific dollar figure was given.  

Overbay said last year that the project could be up and running to serve the four-county area by 2024 or 2025.

The four counties had been looking at building a single inpatient facility with up to 50 beds before Overbay's trip to Arizona with Straub.  

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