SARATOGA SPRINGS —A decorative planter rests easily atop the kitchen island, greeting all who enter with letters that spell: H-O-M-E.
The two-story haven, which stands at Kirby Road near Washington Street, will serve as the SunRise Retreat – an intensive crisis residence that is the first of its kind in the greater Capital Region and the second one sited in the entire state.
“It is a short-term retreat for people experiencing a mental health crisis,” explained RISE Executive Director Sybil Newell, offering a tour of the building during a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Aug. 24. The residence is expected to be open and fully operational in a few weeks.
“Experiencing a mental health crisis can mean different things to different people,” Newell said. “We will be providing stabilization services, treatment on-site, and discharge planning so that people can return safely to the community.
“We know that people often experience mental health distress where they may not immediately meet criteria to be in the hospital, but, without additional support and oversight they continue to deteriorate and eventually do end up needing hospitalization,” Newell said. “We hope that SunRISE Retreat will fill that gap and give people the extra support they need to avoid going to the hospital, or to give them the extra time they need to get solidly on their feet after hospitalization.”
The two-story building houses approximately 12 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 6 showers. The bedrooms offer a living space about 15 feet long, 15 feet wide, and site a bed, desk, dresser and closet space. There is a multi-purpose kitchen with a free-standing island where meals will be prepared for those in residence, as well as a dining area, conference room, offices for staff and a large living room fitted with multiple couches, a TV, and a fireplace.
The program is open to everyone with or without a diagnosis and there is no long referral process to get into the facility, Newell said. “If you, or someone you know is in a mental health crisis – whatever that looks like – you can call here and we will have 24/7 availability, to be assessed by a professional to determine whether or not they are appropriate for this level of care.”
“The wonderful thing is that it’s for everybody and anybody: your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, your kids, for all of us,” said NYS Office of Mental Health Deputy Commissioner Moira Tashjian, who attended last week’s ceremony. She was joined by local and regional political dignitaries or their representatives, and health specialists. “Hopefully it will be a safe haven for individuals who are in a behavioral health crisis,” Tashjian said. The project has been in the planning stages for nearly five years.
Administered by RISE, SunRISE Retreat will host short-term voluntary program residencies up to 28 days for those who are in mental health distress or experiencing symptoms of a mental health crisis. The program provides stabilization services and features four nurses currently on staff with additional nurses to be hired. A nurse practitioner acts as medical director.
The center, available to those aged 21 and over, has contracted with managed care organizations in the area regarding insurance and accepts Medicaid, as well as being open to people who do not have the ability to pay.
“We have some state funding to cover individuals who have no insurance, but this is primarily a service billable through health insurance,” Newell said. “The maximum stay is up to 28 days, but it really is individuals for what a person needs. Sometimes they just need a couple of days to get away from their lives to get things back together, sometimes individuals need a longer-term stay.”
While located in the city of Saratoga Springs proper, SunRISE Retreat is a licensed office of the New York State Office of Mental Health.
“Someone just has to call here, see if there is space, and come in and be assessed by a medical professional to determine whether person is appropriate for this level of care,” Newell said. On-site treatment such as individual and group therapy, family interaction is offered. Discharge planning will specify where the person will go after being stable.
What the facility won’t provide is a hospital’s level of care, but it will offer an intensive treatment model for individuals who are in need of additional stabilization after an inpatient mental health hospitalization, or need a diversion from inpatient hospitalization but do not need that level of care or are currently in distress.
“The need is significant, particularly for folks in acute mental health crisis, behavioral health crisis,” said Dr. Michael Prezioso, Saratoga County Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services Commissioner. “Not all those folks meet criteria for admission to a hospital setting but we do need an intensive setting for them to get some relief from the symptoms they are suffering from. This is a needed addition to the continuum of care we have in the county.”
The retreat is located within a building owned by RISE that was previously functioning as Kaydeross House, a home for adolescent girls. RISE Housing and Support Services is a human service agency that has served people in Saratoga and the surrounding counties since 1978.
What’s in the SunRISE name? “We wanted to come up with a name that indicates hope,” Newell said. “Hope and calm.”