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Celebrating one year of changing lives — thank you, TRC team!


Bert Nash Center CEO Patrick Schmitz, TRC Medical Director Dr. Cord Huston and Bert Nash Center COO Stephen O'Neill on the day the TRC opened.

On a beautiful summer day, a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Treatment & Recovery Center of Douglas County (TRC) was held June 23, 2022. 

 

To say that was a celebratory moment for all the agencies and institutions that had worked so hard to get the project to that point, and for the community that had overwhelmingly supported a funding proposal to build a behavioral health crisis center by approving a quarter-cent sales tax in November 2018, might be an understatement. 

 

A plan for a behavioral health crisis facility in Lawrence had literally been in the works for years.  

 

Then on April 10, 2023, the TRC began a much-anticipated phased opening. That day was transformative for all the agencies and institutions that had for the previous 10 months navigated compromises, negotiations, and due diligence that ultimately resulted in the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners approving a lease agreement and operating agreement with the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center to operate the TRC, and mostly for the community. 

 

“The day our citizens envisioned when they voted in support of this project has arrived, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Bert Nash Center CEO Patrick Schmitz said the day the TRC opened. “All the partnerships involved in this project have shown that collaboration among local colleagues is the best way to create lasting healthcare outcomes in our community.” 

 

On May 25, 2023, fittingly during Mental Health Awareness Month, the TRC’s Observation and Stabilization units became operational, and the facility was fully open. Since that time, the TRC, located at 1000 West Second St., has been open 24/7. 

 

“I’m so proud of the staff,” said Bri Harmon-Moore, who was named director of the TRC on Sept. 24. “The staff at the TRC are some of the most amazing people. This work can be extremely challenging, but the staff at the TRC are fierce advocates for clients and we all want to help clients navigate through their crisis and to facilitate next steps for them.” 

 

Harmon-Moore started out as TRC program manager in September 2022, more than six months before the facility was opened. Now there are almost 100 team members on staff at the TRC. 

 

In 2023, the TRC provided crisis services for 1,861 episodes resulting in care provided to 1,074 individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. As of earlier this month, there have been more than 1,500 distinct individuals served at the TRC since it opened for more than 3,000 crisis episodes. 

 

Numbers are important and measuring data is a useful tool for analyzing efficiencies and progress. But it’s not the full picture. 

 

“Whatever the number of people served is, that’s how many people didn’t go to the ED (emergency department) or didn’t go to jail. That’s part of what we’re celebrating,” said Ryan Sztorch, Bert Nash Center’s senior director of crisis services. “With the TRC, people are more effectively able to get their behavioral healthcare needs met without navigating these other periphery systems and they’re getting them met in an expedited manner.” 

 

In April, someone who had visited the TRC posted on social media, “I hit rock bottom and (the TRC) saved my life. I don’t intend to ever hit rock bottom again, but if I did, I’d go here. If you are in crisis you don’t need to figure it out on your own. This place does good work.” 

 

Sztorch said there are numerous similar stories of people who have been helped, but the public won’t usually hear about them, and results can be challenging to quantify. 

 

“We don’t build widgets; our product is human lives,” Sztorch said.  “We see people at their worst. We’re just a piece on their path. We don’t get to see the happy endings, when people get housed, when they get clean. We will never see a graph with a data point that says these are the lives that have been saved. So, how do we know it’s working? Because people keep walking in the door of the TRC.” 

 

The TRC is part of a crisis continuum of care, which includes multiple behavioral healthcare partners as well as the Bert Nash Center’s Mobile Response Team, the Douglas County Crisis Line, and the proposed Youth Recovery Center, which is in the planning stages with the goal to open in 2026. A crisis facility specifically for youth has long been identified as a missing link in the community’s crisis continuum of care. 

 

“The TRC has brightly shined a spotlight on the broader system; it is an overflow valve for all those other services,” Sztorch said. “The TRC has filled a significant void, and it has also helped us illuminate other pieces of the system to focus on, like the Youth Recover Center. That need has really become clear based on the work of the TRC.” 

 

Kristin Vernon was announced as director of the Youth Recovery Center (YRC) in April. She is working along with other community partners to develop programming for the new facility, which will be in the building at 3500 Clinton Place. The YRC will serve youth ages 6-17. 

 

Harmon-Moore said that, generally, the busiest time at the TRC is between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and between 10 p.m. and midnight. Sztorch said that timeframe is also when the Mobile Response Team and the Douglas County Crisis Line are the busiest.  

 

“We’ve had so many people come to the TRC who are new to services, who have never been to the Bert Nash Center before,” Harmon-Moore said.  

 

In the past, many of those people were likely going to the ED at the hospital, because before the TRC they had no other option. 

 

Even those who used to come to the ED before the TRC opened might still come to the ED on occasion, but not nearly as often. 

 

“The people we were seeing in the ED before the TRC, they’re not coming in as frequently here,” said Sandra Dixon, LMH Health director of behavioral health integration. “It might be every six months now instead of every month.” 

 

Dixon said the high point last year for the ED by people who were in a behavioral health crisis was in August with 307 visits. 

 

“After August, you can see that number for the ED go down,” Dixon said. “We hit a low in February that wasn’t quite half of the 307 but it was like 160. That’s significantly lower.” 

 

Dixon attributes the drop largely to the opening of the TRC and people becoming aware of its availability. In a way, the TRC is the mental health version of the ED. 

 

“The Gold Unit (at the ED) is intended to be a safe space for folks who are going through a behavioral health crisis, but that safe space isn’t necessarily the most therapeutic space,” Dixon said. “To me, that’s the value of a place like the TRC. It’s a therapeutic environment for folks who are in distress.” 

 

Building a behavioral health crisis facility in Lawrence had been discussed for years. Dixon was part of that early planning process, when she worked at DCCCA, another community partner. 

 

“I think about how far we’ve come,” she said. “It’s been an evolving vision. We all had a vision for what this could be, and I’m not sure we’ve achieved the vision yet. It’s a work in progress.” 

 

It wasn’t an easy path to get here, but there’s one thing all of the parties involved in the creation of what became the TRC could always agree on — the community needed and wanted a facility like this.  

 

“We had to spend a lot of intentional time focusing on consensus, at every level,” Dixon said. “We all learned a lot about the collaborative process. If I look back at the conversations I was having this time last year, to where we are now, wow, we’re really making this work.” 

 

The TRC is the first in the state to offer this new crisis intervention model. It has been described as groundbreaking, innovative, state of the art, and cutting edge. 

 

Harmon-Moore remembers the months spent hiring team members and training them and the countless hours spent developing a budget, facility workflows, licensing, logistics and operational procedures, working closely with other community partners to focus on consensus. It wasn’t always a smooth process, but Harmon-Moore and the TRC team kept the faith. 

 

With a nod to the TV series “Ted Lasso,” at one point Harmon-Moore posted a sign inside the TRC with the word “believe.” 

 

“At the time, there wasn’t really a big team here yet,” Harmon-Moore said. “We all loved ‘Ted Lasso,’ so I was just trying to perk us up. A lot of us would touch the sign on the way to the conference room.” 

 

Sztorch credits Harmon-Moore and the rest of the leadership team for creating the culture at the TRC that is welcoming and inclusive.  

 

“I want to give a shout-out to Bri and the leadership team that values serving everybody,” Sztorch said. “This leadership team has woven that into the fabric of everything that happens here. That’s a testament to the entire leadership team, and they have done it with grace.” 

 

For Harmon-Moore, the bottom line is simple: “We really do want people to come and get help.” 

 

With a cheer of "give care," the staff officially opened the TRC doors.
Bert Nash Center Senior Director of Crisis Services Ryan Sztorch and Bri Harmon-Moore, director of the TRC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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