Bartlett Regional Hospital's new crisis stabilization center was under construction on Thursday, March 24, 2022, and is slated to open next year. Hospital staff said the center will help the hospital address the high number of behavioral health needs in the Juneau community. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Work begins on new crisis stabilization center

The new facility will provide emergency behavioral health services to Southeast Alaska.

Construction has begun on Bartlett Regional Hospital’s new $17 million crisis stabilization center set to open in March, 2023. The new facility will provide much-needed emergency behavioral health services to Juneau, said BRH Interim Chief Behavioral Health Officer Karen Forrest, and will focus on providing crisis services to adolescents.

“There has always been a need to provide some level of crisis intervention services for youth, particularly,” Forrest said in an interview with the Empire. “We have had the mental health unit for many many years and the discussion of being able to provide a more safe place for youth in crisis has been in place for a least the last 30 years.”

The center will have eight beds serving youth and adults, Forrest said, and will offer 23-hour crisis stabilization services as well as residential crisis stabilization for up to seven days. Crisis care refers to when patients are at risk of self-harm, Forrest said, and the center will be able to provide stabilization services to patients and their families.

In addition to youths, Forest said the center will be able to serve adults seeking behavioral health services but that might not need the same level of care that a child in crisis might.

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The need for increased behavioral health services has been around for a long time, Forest said, but following the COVID-19 pandemic the number of patients needing mental health care rose significantly and continues to rise. Forrest said in the Spring of 2021 the hospital was seeing roughly 1,000 patients a month seeking behavioral health services and that number has increased in 2022 to 1,400 a month.

“With our outpatient psychiatric services there’s 33% increase from 2021 to 2022,” Forrest said. “That continues to grow month over month, across all of our age ranges.”

The center will be an expansion of Bartlett’s behavioral health services, Forrest said, and the hospital will need to hire more staff in order to meet the need. Forrest said the hospital is still working on the center’s annual budget.

Bartlett has experienced high turnover among its leadership recently and is actively recruiting a new chief behavioral health officer. The hospital’s previous behavioral health officer Bradley Grigg resigned in September, the same day as former hospital CEO Rose Lawhorne was fired for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. KTOO reported in January Grigg’s expense reports are part of an ongoing investigation.

According to BRH spokesperson Erin Hardin, construction of the center is being funded by three sources, $2 million in grants; $8 million in bonds and $7.7 million in the hospital’s reserve funds.

There are currently no behavioral health crisis centers for youth in Southeast Alaska, Forrest said, and in addition to the inpatient services the center will offer, the new building will also house supportive services for behavioral health. In addition to the crisis center, Bartlett already has a crisis intervention team that can make house calls if necessary, Forrest said.

The center is the result of collaboration between the hospital and several entities, Forrest said, including the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc. and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

The center is being built by Dawson Construction and will have three floors of services, BRH said in a release. The building is located on the south side of the hospital campus and its frame is visible from Egan Drive.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

A new crisis stabilization center at Bartlett Regional Hospital was being built on Thursday, March 24, 2022, and will house three floors of services dedicated to behavioral health. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

A new crisis stabilization center at Bartlett Regional Hospital was being built on Thursday, March 24, 2022, and will house three floors of services dedicated to behavioral health. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

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