TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Twin Falls has a new community partner.

The Crisis Center of South Central Idaho was welcomed to the area during an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility on Thursday afternoon. Local and state officials attended the event, including Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

“Sure it’s got some cost to it,” Otter told audience members who were packed into the facility’s community room; others stood in a nearby hallway. “But it's also got value.”

The Crisis Center, operated by South Central Public Health District and located at 570 Shoup Ave. West, serves all eight counties of the Magic Valley region. It is an outpatient facility that provides services to individuals going through a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

The center is not meant to offer long-term care, but instead helps patients get through the crucial first 24 hours of a crisis and provide them a list of additional resources to meet their long-term needs.

The real value of the Crisis Center, Otter said, is what it offers individuals in need, their families, and the community.

Photo by Andrew Weeks

“Not only will it treat an individual need,” he continued, “but it will bring families back together. If you can save a person, you save a family, you save a community, you save a state."

The center opened Nov. 21 and has so far treated 18 individuals, said clinician Felix Arnold. About 3,000 square feet and 12 rooms currently are being used, but plans are to grow into 11,000 square feet. Eventually the center would like to have 24 usable rooms.

The center aims to take some of the burden off emergency rooms. Open 24/7, the center will accept patients for 23 hours and 59 minutes. No one will be turned away, Arnold said, even if a patient doesn’t have insurance.

Common problem areas addressed at the center include alcohol and drug abuse; depression, stress and anxiety; grief and loss; major life changes; mental illness; and suicidal thoughts.

If a person checks out after 23 hours and 59 minutes, staff have the option to review patient needs and check him or her back in if the patient needs additional time at the facility. All who leave are given resources where they can seek additional, long-term help.

If you can save a person," says Gov. C.L. 'Butch' Otter, "you save a family, you save a community, you save a state.

Services at the center are paid for with state monies, but the facility has to become self-sustaining in two years. It is the third such center to open in Idaho. The other areas that have centers include Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene. A fourth center is planned for the Boise area.

“We want to do the very best job we can,” said Frank Knight, a member of South Central Behavioral Health Board.

SCPHD Executive Director Rene LeBlanc said he’s already impressed with the work that’s been done by staff, and he is excited that the community now has a center to better serve those with immediate crisis needs.

It is a facility, said Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar, where those in the community struggling with a mental health crisis “can be better met.”

One patient visited the facility on Thanksgiving. She later told the staff how grateful she was for their help.

"She said, 'You saved my life,'" Knight explained, becoming emotional as he related the story.

Gov. Otter said the value of the Crisis Center will be further realized as it continues to save lives and put families back together. "I already know of one person who is grateful for it," he said.

Individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis may walk in or call 866-737-1128.