24-hour behavioral-health urgent-care center opens in Long Beach

Uranga says facility’s operator has addressed all residents’ concerns about the center’s location and services

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Photos by Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune
Fourth District LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn (far right) addresses those assembled for the grand opening Monday morning of the Long Beach Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, located at 3200 Long Beach Blvd.

In what City and County officials say is a significant effort to help those with mental-health issues get appropriate help– as well as ease the burden on hospital emergency rooms, reduce the need for psychiatric hospitalizations and assist law-enforcement with behavioral-health challenges– the Long Beach Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center (BHUCC) opened this week as a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week psychiatric facility.

The BHUCC, located at 3200 Long Beach Blvd., is a Medi-Cal-certified and Lanterman-Petris-Short-certified crisis stabilization unit designed to provide quick access to mental-health assessment and medication support. It will also provide case management and linkage to recovery-oriented, community-based resources through a “trauma-informed lens” integrated with interventions for co-occurring substance-abuse disorders.

At the center’s grand opening Monday morning, Kent Dunlap, president and CEO of Stars Behavioral Health Group, the statewide operator of the new facility and others like it, called the process of getting it open and operational “a long and winding road.” He said that, although his company is opening several other such facilities throughout the state, the new one in Long Beach is significant to him and his staff.

“I have to say, in all honesty, this one is special to us,” Dunlap said. “And the reason for that is that Long Beach is our back yard. Our company headquarters is about two miles from here. We are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year as an organization, and we’ve been providing services in this community for most of that time.”

The new Long Beach Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center has separate entrances for adults and juveniles to be admitted and assessed.

The BHUCC– which will be staffed with doctors, nurses and mental-health therapists– will include: a walk-in crisis-center component; individual and group therapy rooms; and linkage to housing, social services and other resources. It also features separate intake doors and areas for adults and juveniles.

“We know this is a program that can make a profound difference,” Dunlap said. “It can help reduce the incidents of suicide. It can help individuals who are homeless and living with a mental illness to stay within the community so that they can access services and support to help them get off the street. This will be a big time-saver for law-enforcement, as they intervene to help people in need.”

Jonathan E. Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the LA County Department of Mental Health, called Monday “a really special day” in that the facility will serve as a critical part of his department’s care continuum in mitigating the need for hospitalizations and addressing overcrowded emergency rooms.

“This place is a welcoming, clean, high-quality environment,” Sherin said. “And we have to [provide it]– it’s a part of battling stigma. It’s a part of getting individuals who need help to embrace the help that’s available to them.”
Fourth District County Supervisor Janice Hahn praised Sherin for his work on the project and particularly for his helping to erase stigmas associated with behavioral health.

The Long Beach Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center opened this week as a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week psychiatric facility to help those with mental-health issues get appropriate help, as well to as ease the burden on hospital emergency rooms, reduce the need for psychiatric hospitalizations and assist law-enforcement with behavioral-health challenges. Pictured is the waiting room on the adult-intake area of the facility.

“I think he’s done more than anybody to begin to have us change our perceptions about those who have mental-health challenges here in Los Angeles County,” Hahn said, “and the care that they not only need, but the care that they deserve and they have a right to have, with dignity and respect.”

She also commended 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga for his support of and involvement in getting the center into his district.

“This would not have happened without your belief and your passion and your commitment and support for this facility opening up in your district,” she said, addressing Uranga.

When he addressed the crowd, Uranga explained that he had presented numerous restrictions and conditions to Stars Behavioral Health Group to meet in order to ensure safety in the neighborhood. Some of the concerns Uranga raised, he said, regarded release hours, types of services provided, transportation to and from the facility and security cameras.

“And they stepped up, and they met those challenges,” Uranga said. “And I want to thank you for doing that because it helped to allay a lot of those fears that we had out here.”

The councilmember said that residents living as far as a mile from the new center had contacted his office, sometimes in anger, with concerns about the facility increasing the burden on law-enforcement, adding to blight and worsening the homelessness situation in the area. Uranga clarified that the center is not just about helping homeless individuals but also those who have a home but need mental-health services.

“So, my challenge was: Do I do the political thing? Because I did want to get re-elected,” he joked. “I could take the political route and agree with my neighbors and my constituents and the electorate and say… ‘Not here, not in my district.’ Or I do the right thing, which is to support it, fight for it and to encourage people to use it and learn more about it because it’s going to contribute to this community.”