New psychiatric health facility opens in Fresno

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A new facility in Fresno will help young people better deal with the growing problem of mental health issues. (KFSN)

A new facility in Fresno will help young people better deal with the growing problem of mental health issues. Every year about 200 Fresno County kids between 12 and 17 have been sent out of the area for psychiatric health assessment and treatment. The new facility aims to ease the emotional and financial toll on families

The Central Star Youth Psychiatric Health Facility has room for 16 kids in crisis. Visitors noticed the rooms weren't numbered. Instead they offered comforting words in different languages.

The medical staff will include child psychologists, a family doctor and nurses. Stars Behavioral Group CEO Peter Zucker explained, "There are some youngsters who unfortunately suffer at a very young age from the beginning of a severe mental illness. This is the right program when there is a barrier to community safety for that young person."

Kids who show suicidal thoughts or may be overly aggressive can be assessed and treated in the secure facility. Fresno County hasn't had one in over 12 years so young people have been taken by ambulance to facilities in Sacramento and Bakersfield. Fresno County Behavioral Health Department Director Dawan Utecht said, "You can only imagine the disruption not just for the kids who need crisis intervention services and stabilization but the families."

In some cases, the facility offers a better alternative to juvenile hall for troubled kids. Stars Behavioral Group senior vice-president Kent Dunlap said, "We do see psychotic disorders and it's at a point where they're really in crisis so they have to meet criteria really to be a danger to themselves and that would be suicidal or engaging in self-harm or a danger to others."

The psychiatric health facility was expected to open later this week.

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