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CCMHC gets an upgrade  

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GIRARD, Kan. — Michael Ehling, executive administrator for the Crawford County Mental Health Center (CCMHC), appeared before the Crawford County Commission on Friday to deliver good news. The City of Pittsburg is providing a $400,000 grant for infrastructure improvements, he said, and the CCMHC has also been awarded a $4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), payable over the next four years. 

According to a press release from CCMHC, the SAMHSA grant will allow the CCMHC to be designated as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), making it one of nine in the state. 17 more are to be accredited by the state in the next two years. 

“It is with much gratitude that we were […] awarded the SAMHSA grant,” the release said. “We are most excited about the possibilities of providing the right care at the right time in the right place and for the right reason.” 

The grant will allow CCMHC to add up to 27 new staff members to be embedded in schools, jails, emergency rooms, law enforcement, and courts. 

The goal of the CCBHC designation is to increase access to, and improve the quality of, community-based mental health and substance use disorder services. Under state law, a CCBHC is expected to complete a thorough needs assessment in its community and then continuously improve services according to those needs, according to the press release. 

Ehling says the SAMHSA grant will expand mental health services for individuals with serious mental illness or substance use disorders, including children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance, and individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. He said service development will include enhanced culturally competent services representatives of the community, along with services for current members of the military, veterans, and their families. Ehling said a consultant with experience in working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has already been hired to help with training. 

The grant will also help with increasing staff to provide expanded crisis services, including mobile crisis teams and the Crisis Stabilization Unit and new Addiction Treatment Center that is slated to begin construction in January of 2023 in Pittsburg. 

Heather Spaur, deputy director of CCMHC and director of the CCBHC, said putting the grant application together was a long process but called it a “labor of love.” 

Commissioner Bruce Blair asked how the new services will be accessed once completed. Ehling said it will be same-day access. A person can call a central number and be directed to the needed services. Spaur added that this way of doing things will act as a kind of triage, without getting the ER or law enforcement involved. 

Spaur said a “Question, Persuade, Refer,” or QPR, program has been introduced into a local school district to help curb suicide. QPR gives teachers the tools and resources to identify someone who may be suicidal and know how to respond appropriately and refer them for services. Similar programs are scheduled for this winter for all mental health providers, law enforcement agencies, and schools in the area. 

“There’s a lot happening,” said Ehling. 

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