Ollie Harris Center is Helping to Improve Community Health

Individual lives and community health in Cleveland County have never been better thanks to an outstanding first year for the Ollie Harris Behavioral Health Center.

Due to a unique urgent access and shared triage process, people desperately in need of mental health or substance use disorder services can reach professionals and start care faster than ever before. The center’s four core positions, Katie Munger-Ollie Harris Center Director, Jamie Piercy-Referral Coordinator, Sejal Rathod-Peer Support Specialist, and Mike Jones-Transportation Specialist, work tirelessly to coordinate access and services with community organizations and between providers at the center.

“The idea is to get people the appropriate help as soon as possible,” said Jamie Piercy, Referral Coordinator for the center. “When people go to the emergency room, a primary care provider, or a shelter for behavioral health problems, they may not get appropriate help because these places aren’t really prepared to deal with mental health emergencies and may not know who we are and how we can help.”

To combat this barrier to care, Jamie and staff began educating professionals about the presence and capabilities of the Ollie Harris Center. Their continuous education and collaboration with emergency room personnel, doctors, nurses, primary care providers, hospital administration and other health care providers is leading to a steady increase in the number of people receiving referrals and new services.

Ollie Harris Behavioral Health Center’s grand opening was May 19, 2016. The center is in the Senator J. Ollie Harris Behavioral Health Wing of the Cleveland County Public Health Center at 200 South Post Road, Shelby, NC.

June 2016 – April 2017 = 1,554 walk-ins for treatment

  • 169 said they would not have received services if Ollie Harris Behavioral Health was not around.
  • 62 said they would have weeks or months before getting services
  • 124 would have gone to the emergency room and waited to be referred for mental health services

Ollie Harris peer support specialists make access even easier by providing emergency transportation to the center. This is a crucial element in handling crisis or urgent situations. The center even provided cab service for a citizen in desperate need of immediate help.

As a final attempt to get people into vital treatment, center staff reach out to those who have been referred by another agency. They explain why they are calling, the importance of getting into services, and what to expect when they visit the center for the first time.

Shared triage—the process of gathering and sharing information—is another unique aspect improving access to care and timely treatment at the center. Everyone coming to the center for the first time starts with Jamie. She has the visitor fill out the center’s patient information form and a consent form to share information among all the providers at the center. Based on answers to the core questions about signs and symptoms combined with information from referring professionals, Jamie can schedule a comprehensive clinical assessment with the most appropriate provider right away. Sometimes assessments can be done within an hour or two.

The shared triage process also establishes a patient profile shared by the Ollie Harris providers— Alexander Youth Network, Monarch, Phoenix Counseling Center, and Support Incorporated. This means general demographic information, triage form information, and results of the clinical assessment are already in the system. If the clinical assessment shows the person should see a second provider for another issue, the person will not have to go through the process again. This increases the amount of time and resources the visitor and staff can use to begin treatment.