By Tim Hall

In January, the Unity Behavioral Health Center will open in Portland and be the first and only psychiatric-specific emergency room in Oregon. The new 24 hour, seven day a week heath facility is “a place where people find help, hospitality and hope,” said Dr. Chris Farentinos, Vice President of the Unity Center. The center is located at 1225 NE 2nd Ave. near Oregon Convention Center.

The center is a community-focused collaboration between Adventist Health, Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University to create a comprehensive psychiatric emergency care facility for people facing a mental health crisis. Patients are quickly evaluated by a psychiatrist, stabilized and then a treatment plan is customized to their individual needs.

Across the U.S., people experiencing a psychiatric emergency cannot always get the help they need, when they need it. Too often mental health issues go untreated, which can lead to homelessness, loss of employment, broken relationships, incarceration and suicide.

The Unity Center combines vital emergency care and short-term inpatient services. Psychiatric Emergency Service (PES) drastically reduces the amount of time people suffering a mental health crisis have to wait to get appropriate care compared to a conventional hospital emergency room. Reducing the wait time and giving a person immediate attention has proven to reduce the risk of hospitalization and shows better outcomes.

People facing a mental health crisis, including children ages nine to 18, can be delivered to the Unity Center by family or friends, self-check-in, or be transported by ambulance. If no crime has been committed, a patient may be safely delivered by law enforcement officers.

Unity Center’s care model is based on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) that promotes trust, safety, collaboration, peer support, choice, and the inclusion of cultural, historical and gender issues. Unity Center staff have integrated the principles of TIC into all of their policies, procedures and practices.

Patients will receive compassionate emergency psychiatric care by highly qualified physicians, behavioral therapists, nurses and staff and have available strong peer support personnel onsite. Having themselves recovered from a mental illness, these peers are on hand to guide patients as they navigate the treatment and recovery process.

“Unity is going to change lives, it’s going to matter, it’s going to make a difference,” said Brenda Mitchell, a Peer Wellness Specialist.

Using an innovative “living room” concept, patients are exposed to a welcoming and healing environment. When a short-term stay is necessary, there are 80 adult and 22 adolescent inpatients beds available. The Unity Center also has eight quiet spaces or “calming rooms,” a pharmacy, chapel, and a café for visitors and staff. A restful outdoor garden is planned.

The Unity Center’s architecture and various color schemes are designed to reduce agitation and instill a sense of well-being. The goal is to provide every person with a fresh outlook on the future, one full of possibilities and recovery.

The staff will work with dozens of community partners to offer transitional support services. With personnel located inside the center, these organizations help to coordinate continued support for patients after they are discharged. These support “navigators” will aid patients with ongoing outpatient care and life resources, such as job and housing assistance, addiction treatment, legal aid, family counseling and long-term inpatient care.

In addition to providing behavioral health patient care, the Unity Center will also serve as a training site for medical and nursing students, nurse practitioners, and other related disciplines.

“The Unity Center is an investment that will dramatically improve the lives of individuals and families dealing with a mental health crisis and lead to a healthier community,” said Marcia Randall, Co-trustee of the Robert D. and Marcia H. Randall Charitable Trust. The Trust donated $20 million to help establish the Unity Center.

The public is invited to tour the Unity Center on Thursday, January 5, 2017, from 4 pm to 7 pm. No reservations are required, but public parking is limited.