In the midst of a statewide mental health crisis, a large nonprofit is providing some relief, with plans to open a 13-bed home near George Floyd Square in Minneapolis that will treat people recovering from mental health emergencies.
People Incorporated, the state's largest nonprofit provider of mental health services, said the home, at 3633 Chicago Ave., will open this fall and provide round-the-clock supervision and care for people who have suffered a mental crisis and require more therapy and other support before returning home. Patients experiencing a range of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, will have access to a team of nurses, therapists and social workers for up to three months.
The St. Paul-based nonprofit is buying the Victorian-style home from Hennepin Healthcare, which has operated a short-term mental health crisis center at the site since 2017, though care was limited primarily to those who needed a place to go for short periods (three to 10 days) after acute hospital stays.
The newly opened center, located a block from George Floyd Square, is expected to relieve pressure on Twin Cities-area hospital emergency departments that have become overwhelmed by patients suffering mental health crises. The home is also part of a broader effort by mental health providers to help patients make the difficult transition back to their jobs and communities after being discharged from hospitals and acute psychiatric wards.
The days following a hospitalization are especially high-risk periods for anxiety, depression and suicide, health researchers have found. Many psychiatric patients stop taking their medications, suffer another mental health crisis and end up back in the hospital. Someone with a serious mental disorder can repeat this cycle dozens of times in a single year.
In this way, mental health treatment differs from many other forms of medical care, in which patients who undergo procedures, such as a hip replacement or heart surgery, are often sent to centers for rehabilitation before returning to their own homes.
"You don't want to discharge people into nothing [after a hospital stay], and facilities like this are a really important part of the mental health system," said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota (NAMI). "It gives people a place to heal when they're not fully ready to go home."
Statewide, there are nearly 70 similar step-down facilities that provide round-the-clock supervision and intensive mental health treatment for limited periods, typically 30 to 90 days. Patients seeking care at these facilities, which range from 10 to 16 beds, typically need a higher level of care than outpatient therapy — and often are transitioning out of hospitals or county jails. The facilities, known as intensive residential treatment services, or IRTS programs, are designed to ease a person's transition back to everyday life.
The home in south Minneapolis will be unusual in that it will provide a mix of short-term crisis stabilization services and longer-term treatment. The hybrid model of care enables people who have stabilized after a mental health crisis to transfer directly to treatment in the same facility. That way, patients can receive uninterrupted care for several months without having to move or find a new treatment provider on their own, officials said.
Jill Wiedemann-West, chief executive of People Incorporated, said patients who stay longer for intensive treatment can learn skills that will help them manage their distress and avoid future crises.
"Now, as soon as that crisis has stabilized, [patients] can literally walk across the hall to a different room and start their treatment experience," Wiedemann-West said. "And for a lot of folks, this is very attractive, because once you feel safe in a place, it's hard to get excited about starting something new."
People Incorporated already offers this blend of crisis and intensive treatment at facilities in St. Paul, Chaska and elsewhere in Minneapolis.
Jennifer DeCubellis, chief executive of Hennepin Healthcare, said the public hospital system put the south Minneapolis home up for sale a year ago, on the condition that the property would continue to be operated as a mental health treatment center. People Incorporated was chosen in part because of its ability to provide a broader array of wraparound services for patients, she said. The home has been vacant since last July largely because of staffing shortages.
"It is a better ecosystem of seamless care," DeCubellis said. "Our teams got it started, they got it built, and they absolutely demonstrated the need in the community. Now, People Incorporated is going to take it to that next level."