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Volunteers of America is building crisis stabilization facilities in Cheyenne and Sheridan

Volunteers of America Sheridan campus
Volunteers of America Northern Rockies
An aerial view of the Volunteers of America campus in Sheridan. The brownish building past the chapel (white building with steeple) is Freedom Hall, a veterans home that will have 10 new rooms built. The building at the far right is The Life House, where the crisis stabilization addition will be constructed.

Volunteers of American Northern Rockies (VOANR) is set to break ground on new crisis stabilization facilities in Cheyenne and Sheridan. The facilities will improve access to the services they offer and enhance their existing ones. Those services include mental health services, housing assistance, assistance for those with disabilities, family-focused treatment, and helping integrate those who have been incarcerated to return to society.

VOANR’s facilities in Sheridan will help alleviate long-term problems with a lack of infrastructure for behavioral health. Crisis stabilization services are intended to reduce the number of Title 25 placements and divert patients from hospitalizations when possible due to their high cost. These services will be provided as a complement to the work that’s being undertaken at Sheridan Memorial Hospital to create more opportunities for local emergency behavioral health treatment.

“These will be new services to northeastern Wyoming,” said Heath Steel, Chief Operating Officer for VOANR. “Volunteers of America has a long history of providing crisis stabilization services in Cheyenne and our program there, but the northern part of Wyoming has lacked a facility that kind of bridges between inpatient hospitalization and community-based care. So, these are individuals that step up and stepped down through the system as they manage their behavioral health needs, and this will be new to Northeastern Wyoming.”

The Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board has provided over $4 million to enhance VOANR’s existing behavioral health facilities. In addition to the crisis stabilization facilities in Cheyenne and Sheridan, the money will also go to a woman’s substance use disorder treatment facility in Cheyenne. The Sheridan facility will allow VOANR to increase their clinical capacity by hiring two physicians in addition to their existing medical staff and psychiatrist. Currently, there are six full-time prescribing medical staff on hand in Sheridan as well as several contract employees. This includes around 40 clinicians that are regularly billed and working on the Sheridan facility’s teams. The to-be constructed facility will be about 6,000 square feet and will have 12 beds. It’s scheduled to open in the spring of 2024.

The Cheyenne facility will be constructed on VOANR owned property and is set to be completed in mid-to-late 2024.

“The program [in Cheyenne] that we will be constructing will have multiple levels of care offered within the program,” Steel said. “We will have residential crisis or crisis stabilization, we will have high intensity residential treatment, we will offer social detox and then we will offer some longer-term step-down housing for individuals with a severely persistently mentally ill diagnosis or a severely mentally ill diagnosis.”

Services in Cheyenne include those offered at other VOA locations, including for those that need long-term or regular treatment.

Steel said the previous couple of years has shown an increased need for behavioral health treatment.

“Coming out of COVID, we're seeing more acute clientele, we're seeing a greater need for access to residential services, and we are strong partners in helping to reduce the Title 25 [involuntary mental health holds for those in a mental health crisis] costs in the state of Wyoming,” he said.

Steel said in most cases, counties are responsible for the first 72 hours that anyone is held in emergency detention. One of their goals is to help provide care locally and reduce the amount of public funds that are currently spent on emergency mental health treatment.

“The goal of this is to meet them right up front and address the crisis that's going on and get them quickly back into the community,” he said. “Our goal at VOA has and always [been and] will be to serve individuals at the lowest level of care possible and generally, that's in their community in their home and around their friends and families.”

VOANR is under contract to provide a range of services in 11 counties in Wyoming but serves residents from all 23. The Northern Rockies region also serves Montana and South Dakota.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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