In its first year of operation last year, the state’s behavioral health crisis center in Idaho Falls saved Idaho $764,000 by taking patients that otherwise would have been hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms.
“To have saved over $750,000 in the first year of operations is astounding,” Ross Edmunds, behavioral health division administrator for Department of Health Welfare, told legislative budget writers Tuesday in reviewing the division’s budget request.
By accepting 259 referrals from law enforcement, the center also saved police and other agencies nearly 1,200 hours of work.
The savings is integral to the state’s long term plan to create seven crisis centers throughout the state. After Idaho Falls, a second center opened in December in Coeur d’Alene. Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed budget for the coming year calls for a third crisis center to open at a southern Idaho location this year at a cost of $1.7 million.
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The centers operate ‘round the clock and provide short-term services to people in crisis for up to one full day, keeping people out of either hospitals or jails. The Idaho Falls center saw nearly 2,400 clients last year. The average stay was 14.5 hours.
The time savings for law enforcement is based on 4.5 hours per each of the 259 referrals to the center, plus transport and processing time for 47 people who would have been taken to hospital emergency rooms. The other savings:
▪ 228 referrals from hospitals, at an average ER visit cost of $1,223, saved $281,124.
▪ 138 people diverted from hospitals, at a 5-day average stay and a $700 daily rate, saved $483,000.
In its first month, the northern Idaho center has handled 66 patients, eight law enforcement referrals and four hospital referrals.