N.M. Behavioral Health Crisis Center to Address Gaps in Service Availability

June 17, 2024
Center to address critical gaps in behavioral health services by providing comprehensive crisis triage and stabilization services

A behavioral health crisis center set to open this month promises to fill a gap in the continuum of care for people in New Mexico.

The  Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Albuquerque is a joint project between Bernalillo County and UNM Hospital. The endeavor was made possible by a behavioral health initiative tax passed by voters in Bernalillo County in 2014 to address the need for additional mental health services in the community.  

The revenues from this tax have allowed Bernalillo County to implement a variety of mental health services throughout the Albuquerque area.

In 2022, Bernalillo County partnered with UNM Hospital to create the BHCC, the centerpiece of this initiative that combined $20 million in county funds and a $20 million match from the hospital. The center will sit adjacent to the current UNM Psychiatric Center. Operation of the new facility will be funded in the same manner as other UNM Hospital operations, with revenue streams including Medicaid, Medicare, other insurance. 

The goal of the BHCC is to enable New Mexicans who struggle with behavioral or mental health issues to access appropriate levels of care in this new, larger facility.  Its “no-wrong-door” approach will make sure that patients receive access to the services that they need. 

Modeled after crisis triage stabilization centers in Tucson and San Antonio offering a more clinically appropriate and cost-effective solution, the Behavioral Health Crisis Center will address critical gaps in behavioral health services by providing comprehensive crisis triage and stabilization services with a physical connection to existing resources co-located on the University Psychiatric Center campus.

County and UNM Health leaders said the BHCC will addresses the problem of strained emergency rooms with patients needing behavioral health services. It will also provide meaningful access to stabilization services for individuals not meeting clinical requirements for acute inpatient care.

“This partnership between UNM Hospital and Bernalillo County is really a combined effort to create meaningful solutions to some of our community’s biggest challenges. We can be more successful in making a difference when we use our mutual resources and skills to work together,” said Kate Becker, CEO of UNM Hospital, in a statement. 

The BHCC measures 48,699 square feet and contains three key services that assist patients with different needs.
The Crisis Triage Center (CTC) provides medium-acuity crisis stabilization services with 16 single patient rooms. Other spaces in the CTC include group therapy and staff support areas, as well as an observation unit.

The Peer-Based “Living Room” Model offers low-acuity walk-in or referral services in a welcoming environment accessed by a separate public entrance and lobby. This program also includes a respite area, living room space, nourishment area and client work rooms.

Additionally, the UNM Hospital Psychiatric Emergency Services is expanding its existing program to the BHCC to better serve patients who present with greater psychiatric acuity. This new space has more room for adult patients and includes dedicated rooms for pediatric patients, as well.

The opening of the BHCC will enable New Mexicans who struggle with behavioral or mental health issues to access appropriate levels of care in this new, larger facility. Its “no wrong door” approach makes sure that patients receive access to the services that they need.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter in New Mexico healthcare,” said Bernalillo County Commission Chair Barbara Baca. “The Behavioral Health Crisis Center will offer comprehensive and compassionate care to New Mexicans struggling with behavioral or mental health issues.”

The Behavioral Health Crisis Center is set to take its first patients on June 25, 2024.

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