Future uncertain for Palm Springs walk-in mental health facility, only one of its kind in valley

The Palm Springs mental health urgent care has been in operation since 2016 when it was hailed as “a significant, positive step” toward addressing local behavioral health needs by elected officials.

The only 24/7 walk-in mental health urgent care in the Coachella Valley – located in northern Palm Springs — could close Thursday with an uncertain future.

Officials with Riverside County confirmed Wednesday that the contract with the current service provider at the facility – Phoenix-based RI International — ends at the end of the fiscal year (June 30). They hope to sign a new contract with a different provider, but it is unclear whether the Palm Springs facility will operate under that contract.

A spokesperson for RI International could not comment on the reasons why the contract was terminated but did confirm that the company will no longer operate locations in both Palm Springs and Riverside. 

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Greg Rodriguez, who recently transitioned to deputy director for government affairs and community engagement for the county’s Housing and Workforce Solutions Department, said talks are ongoing with Telecare to step in after the current contract ends. Telecare operates a referral-only facility in Indio.

“We’re having difficulty on some lease negotiations,” Rodriguez said of the situation in Palm Springs. “So, in the interim, if we can’t get that figured out, basically in the next two days … the county Behavioral Health Department is ramping up its capacity for the Indio location.”

While there is no guarantee the Palm Springs location will reopen after it closes, the county is making several moves to assure the services it offers will remain available in the valley no matter what transpires.

“During the Palm Springs site transition, starting July 1, the Indio Crisis Stabilization Unit will act as a voluntary CSU to provide service and handle mental health urgent care needs while we actively work on transitioning to a new provider,” wrote Robert Youssef, the senior public information specialist with Riverside University Health System. “We are working hard to ensure that the transition is as seamless and community-driven as possible.”

The Palm Springs mental health urgent care has been in operation at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Dr. since 2016 when it was hailed as “a significant, positive step” toward addressing local behavioral health needs by elected officials. It was designed to treat up to a dozen people at any one time for a maximum of 23 hours. 

The clinic treats people regardless of insurance or ability to pay. When it closes, unless the Indio facility agrees to accept walk-ins, the nearest comparable walk-in clinic is one hour away in Perris. 

Clinics like the one operated in Palm Springs are meant for people who are in immediate crisis and are looking for voluntary help 24/7 without an appointment but do not meet the criteria for a temporary involuntary psychiatric hold (5150). Someone must be considered a danger to themselves or others or gravely disabled to qualify for the involuntary hold.

Starting July 1, if someone in the Coachella Valley is experiencing distress because of a mental health issue but it doesn’t rise to that level, their only option might be to go to the emergency room and eventually get a referral to make an appointment at a local facility.

Currently, it’s possible to walk into the Palm Springs facility in crisis and walk out after being evaluated and given education on recovery or psychiatric and medication support. 

“Anyone that comes in for any reason, including law enforcement drop-offs, we are there to help divert people from going to the emergency room or jail when they have a mental health or substance abuse issue,” said Amy Pugsley, executive vice president of RI International.

The rate of involuntary detention for psychiatric reasons is on the rise, according to a recent study by researchers at UCLA. 

“This is the most controversial intervention in mental health — you’re deprived of liberty, can be traumatized and then stigmatized,” said one of the lead researchers, Professor David Cohen. 

“The process can involve being strip-searched, restrained, secluded, having drugs forced on you, losing your credibility. For people already scarred by traumatic events, involuntary detention can be another trauma.”

If you need help: The Indio Crisis Stabilization Unit is located at 47-825 Oasis St. in Indio. In addition, community members should continue to call the 24/7 Crisis Helpline at 951-686-HELP (4357). The Helpline is free and confidential, and trained counselors – including those who are bilingual – can provide support and resources to best help you.

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