Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

New Haven-based nonprofit Continuum of Care is set to open Connecticut’s first 24-hour short-term crisis stabilization center serving adults, called The REST Center, around April.

The center will provide short-tcerm interventions for people who are experiencing a crisis and need stabilization, serving as an alternative destination to hospitalizations or jail. The center will be staffed 24/7, 365 days per year, with a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, nurses, licensed clinicians and peers with lived experience, according to outgoing Department of Community Resilience Director Carlos Sosa-Lombardo. The center can accommodate up to ten patients at a time, Celeste Cremin-Endes, the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ Chief of State-Operated Services told the News. 

The city has not yet announced the center, and Lenny Speiller, the city’s communications director, declined to give further details on the center’s opening until they are finalized.

Continuum of Care’s Vice President of Acute and Forensic Services John Labieniec, who will be spearheading the project with Program Director of Emergency Response Services Wanda Jofre, told the News that the center will be located in the Beaver Hills neighborhood and that the team hopes construction will be done by early April so that the center can begin operations later that month.

“Our community is struggling with a homeless crisis and with the rise in mental health needs during an emergency we need more alternatives other than ‘Yale or jail,’” Labieniec wrote to the News, referring to the Yale New Haven Hospital.

Labieniec said that the project began when Continuum received a grant to explore 24-hour community-based “therapeutic” stabilization centers around the country as alternative treatment centers to emergency rooms for individuals struggling with behavioral health issues.

Labieniec and Jofre, both licensed social workers, received grants from the state and New Haven, and are partnering with the Connecticut Mental Health Center, the City’s Department of Community Resilience, the Elm City COMPASS mobile crisis team and New Haven police. Labieniec specifically thanked Sosa-Lombardo for his involvement in the project, calling him “instrumental” in making the vision for a crisis stabilization center a reality.

Cremin-Endes explained that Continuum’s state contract was awarded through a Request for Proposal — or RFP — process, where the state solicited bids from organizations looking to take on a project similar to the REST Center. The highest-scoring bid is then given the opportunity to negotiate a contract.

She said that the state’s grant is intended to cover the cost of the center’s operations, while the grant from the city funds the center’s physical construction.

Jorge X. Camacho LAW ’10, a criminal justice and policing law scholar, noted the significance of the REST Center’s 24/7 care model. He said that despite hotlines like 2-1-1 — which connects callers to New Haven’s Coordinated Access Network — being available 24/7, the services to which operators can connect patients are often unavailable. 

Labieniec said that the REST center will follow a “living room model” — providing services in a non-institutional, home-like environment. 

According to Sosa-Lombardo, the center will accommodate individuals who may arrive by ambulance, police transport or from a crisis team like COMPASS. The crisis team, also founded as a partnership between the city and Continuum of Care, offloads specific cases, like mental health crises, from the city’s emergency service departments.

“The model is meant to partner with police and mobile crisis [teams] and serve as that alternative,” wrote Labieniec. “The idea is no one is turned away.”

Camacho said that the community-centered approach to intervention brings the sophisticated treatment that would normally only be available in acute care settings to the location where patients live, making the treatment process, for mental health issues or drug abuse, less isolating than typical forms of intervention.

He also emphasized a trend of increasing enthusiasm by police officials to collaborate with these types of crisis intervention methods.

“[Intervention] does not pose an existential threat to police officers, or policing in itself, but it can be seen as a really useful and beneficial supplement to the efforts of police officers to effectuate public safety,” Camacho said.

Crisis Stabilization Units — or CSUs — have risen in popularity throughout the country. The Wellmore Behavioral Health non-profit treatment provider in Waterbury currently operates a 24-hour Urgent Crisis Center for children. Three other pediatric CSUs currently operate in the state — at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, the Village for Families and Children in Hartford and the Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut in New London — but each of the centers has placed a limit on daily capacity. When the REST Center begins operations, it will be the only such service for adults in Connecticut.

Continuum of Care was founded in 1966.

Ariela Lopez covers City Hall and City Politics. Originally from New York City, she is a first-year in Branford College.
Kenisha Mahajan covers Cops & Courts for the City desk. She is a first-year in Benjamin Franklin College from Queens, New York majoring in ethics, politics and economics.