LifePath Systems is expanding to meet next year’s projected demands. On Jan. 1, the community-based nonprofit will become Collin County’s behavioral health and substance abuse authority. Currently, those services are provided by NorthSTAR, a publicly funded, managed care partnership sponsored by seven North Texas counties.

One of the biggest changes local residents can expect is the creation of a mobile crisis outreach team. LifePath Systems will manage a 24-hour hotline to help people who are beginning to experience a mental health crisis. When calls are received, mental health professionals will be dispatched to offer treatment and avoid law enforcement situations if at all possible.

“We can actually do some brief counseling there and make an evaluation,” said Brad Negrete, crisis service program administrator for LifePath Systems. “We can also offer a wider variety of services.”

In addition to quick response times, a crisis outreach team will also be able to follow up with patients for 30-60 days to help prevent further episodes. For those in need of more intensive treatment, LifePath Systems is nearing completion of an extended observation unit in McKinney. The lockup facility will be able to hold people for 23-48 hours in order to determine appropriate courses of action.

Part of LifePath’s mission is to ease the burden on law enforcement while providing a higher level of mental health care, LifePath Systems CEO Randy Routon said.

“There are some people who obviously need to be [put in jail] but there are also people who just get mixed up in the system,” he said

Plano Police Department representatives said they hope LifePath Systems’ increased emphasis on patient aftercare will cut down on the number of people in the criminal justice system.

“They seem to have the right mind-set and a plan set in place,” Plano Police spokesperson David Tilley said. “That’s good news that will ultimately be beneficial to the mental health community.”

Behavioral health in Collin County

LifePath Systems, formerly known as Collin County Mental Health Mental Retardation, previously served as Collin County’s mental health authority until 1999. County commissioners unanimously voted to leave NorthSTAR and return to LifePath Systems last February. LifePath representatives visited facilities across the state to identify best practices before implementing the new program.

“One of the charges from the county commissioners and the state was, ‘don’t reinvent the wheel,’” Routon said. “Let’s find out what’s working well out there and do it well in Collin County.”

Evidence of LifePath’s growing footprint is already apparent in Plano. A new facility opened on Alma Drive last August, and will soon expand into neighboring spaces. The Plano location houses the county’s after-hours crisis clinic. People can call or come in for counseling and assistance.

The location is also home to a UT Southwestern primary care clinic, the county’s only Metrocare-affiliated pharmacy, and numerous counseling and support groups.

Although state funding covers many expenses, LifePath still relies on donations to make-up funding shortfalls. Negrete said the nonprofit hopes to eventually find corporate partners that are willing to help advance LifePath’s mission.

“It’s a great start, but still not to the level of where we want to get,” he said.

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