Unity Center to Open Withdrawal Management Service This Summer

The service will help stabilize those suffering from acute intoxication so they may transition to an addiction treatment program.

Updated Jan. 22, 2024

Unity Center for Behavioral Health is expanding its psychiatric emergency services department to provide withdrawal management services starting this summer. Construction began in December for the new service, which will serve those suffering from acute intoxication and provide drop-off access to emergency responders and police.

In 2019, the sobering center run by Central City Concern closed, leaving a critical gap in services. The center’s care model was based on alcohol detoxification, which while still needed, is not currently as urgent in our community as methamphetamine and fentanyl withdrawal management and care. The center closed in part due to safety concerns.

Since that time, police have taken people to local emergency departments for care. Community hospitals have stepped in to fill a care gap for those suffering with substance use disorders.

This gap can in part be addressed through withdrawal management services at Unity Center’s psychiatric emergency services department. The hospital—a 24-hour behavioral health hospital located in central Portland—provides immediate psychiatric care and a path to stabilization and recovery for those in crisis.

More than 50% of the patients Unity Center serves in its psychiatric emergency services department are suffering from a substance use disorder.

The new service will provide 24/7:

  • Emergency responder and police drop-off access
  • Walk-in services
  • Emergency mental health stabilization
  • Withdrawal management
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine level of care assessments
  • Recovery-focused care coordination and referrals
  • Harm reduction education
  • Peer support
  • Referrals for follow-up care within the community for treatment services

Unity Center’s staff has extensive experience in trauma-informed care, verbal de-escalation and recovery-focused treatment planning. The new service will provide easily accessible and safe care to assist patients suffering from mental health and substance-related crises.

Patients are projected to stay on average two to three days and will receive assistance with:

  • Access to medical care and public insurance resources when appropriate
  • Resources needed to achieve personal goals related to substance use and recovery
  • Referrals and connection to community resources reflecting their need and desire for services.

In addition, Unity Center will partner with the Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon for its peer support services.

In late 2022, CareOregon and Health Share committed to funding the nine beds at Unity Center—$4 million for capital construction from Health Share, plus $3.5 million a year to cover ongoing operations from CareOregon. In spring of 2023, the City of Portland and Multnomah County committed additional funds of $335,000 each to close an unexpected gap in construction funding.

– Elizabeth Baker, elbaker@lhs.org