Linn County extends mental health outreach with new van

The new “mobile crisis clinic” reveals a bright design. Photo provided by Alex Paul

Linn County has provided mental health crisis assistance to rural areas for a long time.

But starting in March, the county’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) will be able to provide in-person services virtually anywhere in the county — from residential areas, to business parking lots to community parks — thanks to a new E Transit van that has been “upfitted” into a mobile crisis clinic.

Linn County Crisis Supervisor Manager Nova Sweet said the county ordered the Ford van more than 18 months ago through a fleet program. It recently underwent transformation inside and out, with a colorful graphics wrap and an interior that features a generous amount of storage, seating, lights, a computer holder, swiveling front seats, a bench seat and an on-board generator that will allow mental health staff to provide services in places where no electrical outlets are available.

Public Health Director Todd Noble said the project is in response to the passage of HB 2757, which requires counties to provide mobile crisis response. Funding came through the Oregon Health Authority.

We have traditionally been 24/7, but we primarily only responded directly to local hospitals to do crisis screenings. Now we can meet people where they are at in the community and will respond to crisis situations anywhere in the community,” Noble said. “We are working towards a firehouse model similar to EMS.”

Linn County Mental Health Crisis Supervisor Nova Sweet shows off the interior of the county’s new Mobile Crisis Intervention Team’s van. Photos provided by Alex Paul

Sweet explained that, currently, county staff respond to crisis calls in passenger vehicles. The new van provides them with an actual work space that will hold a wide variety of items that may be needed in a crisis intervention situation.

Sweet said that although Linn County will continue to work closely with EMTs and law enforcement, the van will provide services independently of those agencies. The mobile crisis response model requires that two county staff are present when working with people in need.

Sweet said the new unit may provide many amenities for both clients and staff.

Possible items to be stocked for clients include:  NARCAN, COVID tests; fuel vouchers/bus tickets; food/snacks/bottled water; hygiene (male/female); items for children such as fidgets and coping items; outreach bags; diapers/wipes/powder formula; sleeping bags/tents/tarps; backpacks; hand warmers; coats/socks/clothes; Gatorade as well as warm drinks such as hot coffee or hot chocolate; and blankets.

Possible items helpful to staff may include: Heavy duty extension cord/RV shore line adapter; water jug with spout; cooler; all needed documents/resources; AED/First-aid kit/CPR masks; lock boxes/med minders; pamphlet rack for resources; computer chargers (times two); phone charger; broom/trash can/bags/recycle bin; sanitizer and sanitizer wipes; rubber gloves; sharps container; pens/notepads; fire extinguisher; paper towels; resource phone book; charging cables/charge packs; rain jackets for crisis team; flashlight/extra batteries; jumper cables; and an ice scraper.

Sweet said she received an email from TriVan after the van was delivered.

It noted:  “Your van was the envy of the Vancouver/Portland Area, as I made stops at Vancouver Public Schools and the Clark County Fleet Garage. Vancouver public schools is looking for an audiology testing van upfit and I stopped there so they could see our product in person. They were big fans of the orange interior cabinetry and overall finish quality …”

There are also several high-powered lights on the exterior of the van and there is a canopy that lifts out above a large table when the back doors are opened.

The unit will start rolling out as soon as all staff members are checked out driving it.