Dr. Margie Balfour is adamant about calling mental health care what it is: medical care.
"You don't have counties going, 'Well, gee, we're gonna move our budgets around so you can pay for all these heart attack patients.' We don't even talk like that. That sounds ridiculous," Balfour said, discussing the Pima County, Arizona, choice to use capital funds to build Tucson's Crisis Response Center, run by Connections Health Solutions.
The center is a 24/7 mental health care hub with a walk-in urgent care facility, a place for police to bring people in crisis, an open area with 30 reclining chairs for adults and 10 for children, and more, all focused on providing evaluations and crisis intervention for anyone who drops in.
Behavioral health is healthcare, Balfour said. "The healthcare system should fund mental health emergencies just like they do medical emergencies."
Balfour, a psychiatrist, is chief of quality and clinical innovation with Connections Health Solutions and a "national leader in crisis care and law enforcement responses to behavioral health emergencies," according to the National Institute of Justice.
She started with the Tucson crisis center in 2014, three years after it opened.
"The county decided that they needed a crisis center," Balfour said. "It was really driven by the county wanting to reduce the jail population. So they did a bond election and raised the capital funds to build the building."