Waukesha County Mental Health Center will shrink its inpatient capacity by nearly half starting Aug. 1 to make room for a Crisis Stabilization Unit set to open in 2024.
The center will shrink from 28 beds to 16, and close one wing of the building, at 1501 Airport Road, Waukesha. The wing will be remodeled into a Crisis Unit, which will be geared toward counseling and patient needs such as housing and transportation, instead of psychiatric treatment.
What’s the difference between a mental health center and a crisis unit?
Clinical Services Division Manager Kirk Yauchler said the main difference between the facilities is that the Crisis Unit will be open to voluntary commitment. He said two-thirds of current center admissions are part of Wisconsin’s Chapter 51 process — which allows for involuntary commitment and treatment of someone who is sufficiently dangerous and mentally ill, drug dependent or developmentally disabled.
The Crisis Unit will offer 24/7 services, and have about 12 beds in the facility. Yauchler said the Crisis Unit will staff about 12 to 13 positions, including a program supervisor, clinicians, a registered nurse, certified peer specialist and a mental health technician.
The Mental Health Center provides more immediate psychiatric treatment.
“Someone can be in the Crisis Stabilization Unit and not be seen by psychiatry at all because that’s not what their treatment needs are,” Yauchler said. He added that patients in the crisis unit will still be able to access psychiatric help from the nearby Center’s psychiatrists.
In 2022, the center served 12 patients each day, on average, according to a news release from the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services. The average length of stay is about one week, which is half as long as the average patient stay in 2019.
The release stated that trends show more patients have been admitted in the past years, but they stay for shorter periods of time.
The incoming crisis unit will likely be for longer stays, according to Yauchler. It will possibly also treat patients completing treatment at the Mental Health Center, but who are not ready to re-enter the community.
Waukesha County is one of two counties in Wisconsin that doesn’t have a Crisis Unit
Yauchler said Waukesha is one of approximately two counties that don’t currently have a crisis stabilization facility.
“It’s kind of an error of omission that we don’t have this within our continuum of services, and it’s not for lack of interest,” Yauchler said. “The changes to the Mental Health Center give us an opportunity to build this facility within our existing real estate.”
About 20% of Waukesha County Mental Health Center admissions are residents of other counties, Yauchler said. The Crisis Unit will also offer space for residents of other counties when they have the space.
“This is going to be a huge positive impact to the community,” Yauchler said. “It’s going to benefit our clients.”