Unity Center Substance Use Disorder Intervention Program

New program to begin in early 2024.

June 2, 2023

Unity Center for Behavioral Health is working toward opening a 9-bed substance use disorder intervention program in early 2024, which will help those suffering from acute intoxication.

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 detoxification and care. The center closed due to safety concerns as people arrived under the influence of methamphetamine.

Since that time, police have been taking intoxicated people to hospital emergency departments. It cannot be underscored enough that our community emergency departments have stepped in to fill the gap to care for those who have arrived with substance use disorder needs.

This gap can be improved through the substance use disorder intervention services at Unity Center. The hospital—a 24-hour behavioral and mental health services center located in central Portland—provides immediate psychiatric care and a path to stabilization and recovery for those experiencing a mental health crisis.

More than 50% of the patients Unity Center serves in its psychiatric emergency services (PES) department are diagnosed with either primary substance use disorder or dual-diagnosed with a substance use disorder and mental health disorder.

The new substance use disorder intervention program will provide:

  • 24/7 emergency mental and behavioral health stabilization/sobering services, including pharmacy services
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) SUD assessments
  • Care coordination and recovery, goal, safety, and referral planning
  • Harm reduction education
  • Follow-up care within 48 hours of discharge offering support, resources, and other assistance

The hospital’s staff has extensive experience de-escalating patient aggression and is focused on making the program a safe, trauma-informed space for them to recover. The care team will be available 24/7, 365 days a year to learn patients’ personal experiences, establish trust and help them build care and safety plans.

Patients on average will stay up to five days and will get 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 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.

The new substance use disorder intervention program is funded by CareOregon, which has contributed $4 million in capital costs to remodel Unity Center’s Psychiatric Emergency Services department to accommodate the new service and $3.5 million annually for operational costs. In addition, the city of Portland and Multnomah County will contribute $335,000 each toward capital costs.

The new program supports the goals of the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network’s (BHECN)—helping those in crisis. BHECN was founded in response to the closure of Portland’s only sobering center in 2019. It is a joint project led by Multnomah County in collaboration with the city of Portland.

Unity Center is currently in the design development phase and anticipates construction will begin this fall.

– Elizabeth Baker, elbaker@lhs.org