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Like an ‘emergency room for mental health crisis’: How Avita facility hopes to help community
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Construction continues on Gainesville's Avita Community Partners behavioral health crisis center that among other things could be “like an emergency room for mental health crisis.” The project is under construction on Old Cornelia Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers | Get Out

 Avita Community Partners is building a behavioral health crisis center that among other things could be "like an emergency room for mental health crisis" for Gainesville. 

The project is currently under construction on Old Cornelia Highway. 

Avita Chief Executive Officer Cindy Levi said she anticipates substantial completion of the construction on the behavioral health crisis center by the end of March, though a full opening date is unclear.  

The three main components of it will be a 24-hour walk-in crisis center, a 23-hour temporary observation unit with 15 beds and 30 beds for a crisis stabilization unit. 

A person entering the center would initially be evaluated by a clinician, Levi said. 

"We'd have to find out what the situation was,” Levi said. “If it was an individual (who) had just run out of their medications and needed medications to bridge them until their next appointment with their prescriber, then we would definitely try to take care of that for them.” 

There will also be a counselor there to speak with people as well as a “peer living room,” which will have people who are in recovery and have either diagnosed mental illness or a history of substance use. 

"It's an opportunity to interact with someone who has 'been there' and can offer them hope,” Levi said. “It's more of a mentorship ... it's not considered clinically based, but sometimes a person just needs someone to listen to them." 

If the staff are concerned about a person entering the center, the person might be a candidate for entering the 23-hour observation unit, Levi said.  

People needing close examination, a possible medication change/adjustment or a medically-managed detox could enter the crisis stabilization unit, Levi said. 

There will be a sally port for law enforcement to securely escort a potential patient, Levi said. 

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Construction continues on Gainesville's Avita Community Partners behavioral health crisis center that among other things could be “like an emergency room for mental health crisis.” The project is under construction on Old Cornelia Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville Police has recently hired a mental health clinician to assist officers with calls potentially involving mental health issues.  

Levi said if law enforcement were to come across someone in the field with mental health needs, the officers could call over to the behavioral health crisis center to ready them for someone possibly needing their services. 

Hall County Treatment Services also applied for a grant recently that would create better discharge plans for those in their programs who are incarcerated at the Hall County Jail. Treatment Services oversees the accountability courts such as Drug Court and Veterans Court, which seek solutions outside of prison for people dealing with mental health or substance use issues. 

"We're very fortunate in Hall County that the community really wants to support individuals that need treatment while in incarceration,” Levi said. “Really, there's a lot of partners that are stepping up to the plate."

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Construction continues on Gainesville's Avita Community Partners behavioral health crisis center that among other things could be “like an emergency room for mental health crisis.” The project is under construction on Old Cornelia Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers
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