BEMIDJI -- Although construction workers haven’t even broken ground on the new facility yet, those who work in the field of mental health and social services are looking forward to the creation of a new mental health clinic in Bemidji.

With funding coming from the state, the project is a joint venture between Beltrami County and Sanford Health.

“I think the beauty of this is it’s going to allow some more intense assessment up front so people don’t just languish in the system,” said Becky Secore, director of Beltrami County Health and Human Services.

The project is currently being referred to as the Beltrami County Behavioral Health Crisis Center. Lindsey Wangberg, director of marketing for Sanford Health, said the name of the facility hasn't officially been decided yet.

Secore said the funding for the project originally came about during the 2018 legislative session and that they hope to break ground on the facility some time this spring.

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The project has gone through some changes since it was initially proposed. The original plan would have provided a place for both youth and adults. Due to funding concerns, however, those original plans for the facility were altered to what they are today, which will now have eight beds for adults.

The cost of the project will be $3.63 million, funded through a state bond. The proposed location for the project is next to the current PrimeWest facility, which is located in the 3000 block of Hannah Avenue, not far from the main Sanford Health facility.

Jay Coughenour, director of Behavioral Health for Sanford Health, said the facility will take over some of the services that already were available at PrimeWest Residential Support Center, which is “a voluntary residential treatment facility for adults who are overcoming mental health and chemical dependency issues,” according to its website.

Coughenour said some of the beds that were available at PrimeWest will essentially transition over to the Behavioral Health Crisis Center. That transition will allow an increased capacity for both the crisis component in the new facility while also freeing up space for other needs at PrimeWest.

“Part of the building will be the crisis component of PrimeWest; the other will be similar to the medical emergency department where folks go to get screened and then triaged, Coughenour explained. "So, we’ll be able to do some assessment and some stabilization there.”

While it hasn’t been constructed yet, the facility is expected to have eight beds. The average stay for a patient will likely be around 10 days.

In addition to taking pressure off of the emergency room, the facility also should be more amenable to people going through such crises in the first place. In addition to the eight beds, it’s expected to have an emPATH room, which stands for emergency psychiatric assessment, treatment and healing.

"Psychiatric and mental health professionals will begin prompt treatment of adults experiencing emotional crises or psychiatric emergencies in an area that looks more like a living room than a hospital room," Secore wrote in a letter to the director of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The idea is that such a room would provide less intense stimulation that could potentially exacerbate issues for someone going through a mental health crisis in the first place.

“I think our hope is that it’s going to get people the service in the right location -- that it’ll help drive good, quality assessment so we can place people where they need to be rather than where they land.”