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City Council pursues mental health crisis clinic for Haverhill

HAVERHILL — Recognizing the need for around-the-clock access to emergency care for people experiencing a mental health crisis, the city council is reaching out to the mayor and to the city’s legislative delegation for help with transporting people to area clinics or ideally opening one in the city.

City Councilor John Michitson noted in January the state introduced a new type of service called Community Behavioral Health Centers.

He said those centers provide urgent mental health and substance abuse treatment for youths, families and adults around the clock and seven days a week.

The problem for Haverhill, he said, is that the state designated a Danvers company — Eliot Community Health — as Haverhill’s provider but that Haverhill needs something closer.

He said patients receive immediate care at Eliot and there are also mobile crisis teams that will drive to where a patient is.

One way provide more immediate service to Haverhill residents in immediate crisis is to provide round-trip transportation to and from the Danvers clinic through a specified cab service, however, it’s not as reliable a method as he’d like.

“That service, much like the mobile clinicians, is very erratic and not reliable,” he said. “It takes a lot of advance planning to make that connection work.”

Michitson suggested two solutions: In the short term, provide access to reliable and timely mobile units, and transportation; In the long term, open a facility in Haverhill, possibly run by Eliot.

He also suggested using ARPA money to help Eliot obtain a new facility in Haverhill through a capital investment, and also seek grants, and said Eliot plans to provide, and possibly later this year, a Youth Crisis Stabilization Unit in Haverhill for youths ages 6-11 and 12-17.

“I spoke to a crisis team director who did not want to make too many commitments without talking to her boss,” Michitson said. “That could be a real possibility.”

The council agreed to send a letter to the mayor and to Haverhill’s state and federal legislators asking for assistance in finding short and long term solutions to addressing the mental health crisis. Councilor Thomas Sullivan asked for an update as to the city’s current contract with NFI for providing mental health services to the city.

Councilor Melissa Lewandowski said a federal grant program is available for community health programs and that it could provide up to $1 million to Haverhill.

She agreed that a short-term solution would be to develop a transportation program to and from Danvers for Haverhill residents in mental health crisis.

“Right now Eliot is the only option but there is also a Lahey Clinic in Lawrence, which you can walk into if you’re a Haverhill resident,” she said.

Lewandowski noted that Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services at 12 Methuen St., Lawrence, only has clinicians available during the day.

“There really is a paucity of people (clinicians and physicians) in this industry,” she said.

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