GREENSBORO — Officials broke ground Thursday on a round-the-clock center — one of the first in the state — that is expected to help people suffering from mental-health crises avoid long waits in emergency rooms.

The facility at 931 Third St. will offer mental health urgent care and two 16-bed crisis centers, one for adults and one for children and adolescents.

The 60,000-square-foot building is expected to open in early 2021.

The $28 million center is unusual — there’s only a handful like it nationwide — because of its holistic approach.

“You don’t have to go to two or three places to get your health care needs met,” said Debbie Cunningham, the president of Women’s Hospital and Cone Health Behavioral Health Services.

Traditionally, behavioral facilities have focused on mental-health issues. So patients often are sent to a hospital to be screened for other medical problems. Patients can spend up to three days at the ER before their mental-health or substance-abuse needs are even addressed, Cunningham said.

Physicians at the new center will be able to treat patients for physical problems — such as high blood pressure or diabetes — in addition to issues related to mental health or substance abuse.

“It’s one-stop shopping,” Cunningham said. “It will definitely have an impact on emergency rooms — around 3,000 to 4,000 patient visits a year will be diverted to this new center.”

Cunningham hopes the new facility will help ease the stigma associated with mental health and substance abuse.

“It makes it very difficult for people to even want to seek care,” Cunningham said.

Patients will be able to stay for three to five days and can be transferred to other health facilities for long-term care.

Guilford County and the state are paying for the $20 million design and construction costs for the adult crisis center, whose services will be provided by Cone Health.

Sandhills Center, which coordinates mental-health and substance-abuse services in Guilford, Randolph and seven other counties, is paying for the $8 million child/adolescent crisis center.

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Contact Kenwyn Caranna at (336) 373-7082.

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