PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — After a long period of planning and construction, the Unity Center for Behavioral Health has opened its doors to those who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

The $40 million facility is open 24 hours a day and was built in a partnership between Legacy Health, Adventist Health, Kaiser Permanente and Oregon Health and Science University. It holds 80 adult beds and 22 beds for youth age nine through 17.

On Jan. 31, existing behavioral health patients from Adventist Medical Center, Legacy Emanuel and Legacy Good Samaritan medical centers, as well as Oregon Health and Science University, were transferred to Unity Center, located at 1225 N.E. 2nd Ave.

On Feb. 2, the center’s psychiatric emergency service (PES) began accepting walk-ins and transfers from local emergency departments.

The emergency service is an outpatient service where a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner will evaluate patients and create a treatment plan for the person’s individual needs. The area inside is laid out in a “living room design” with recliners, group space and calming rooms.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner

Patients there can be observed for a few hours up to 23 hours before returning to the community. It was designed so that police would respond less to 911 calls about mental health crises and prevent long waits in hospital emergency rooms.

“People experiencing a psychiatric emergency cannot always get the help they need, when they need it,” said Chris Farentinos, vice president of Unity Center in a press release. “In the PES we hope to drastically reduce the amount of time people have to wait for the appropriate care compared to a conventional hospital emergency room.”

Amber Shoebridge, spokesperson for Legacy Health, said, “It would mean if you have a close family member who is not at that moment in danger … but you do know they’re showing signs of having trouble coping, you would be able to come to the Unity Center and have them checked out and potentially go into the PES where they would meet with professionals and potentially with a peer support specialist.

“Getting them the right care at the right time the goal is to see a decrease of number of people who have to be admitted,” she said.

The goal is to provide evaluation, stabilization and a plan for after discharge. Outreach workers will help patients connect with treatment and resources such housing and job assistance, legal aid, addiction treatment and family counseling.

Unity Center for Behavioral Health is modeled after a facility in Alameda, California.

Studies of the Alameda Model indicate that transferring patients from general hospital emergency departments to a regional psychiatric emergency service reduced wait time for those seeking psychiatric care by more than 80 percent, and that PES can provide treatment to stabilize 75 percent of those experiencing a mental health crisis — alleviating demand for psychiatric beds.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call Unity Center at: 503-944-8000