It all started with a priest and a telephone.
Rescue Inc., the area's only center for emergency mental health care, marks its 45th anniversary this month, a long way from its beginnings as a one-man suicide prevention hot line run by the Rev. Francis Crawford, then an associate pastor at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns parish.
Rescue still offers the emergency hot line. It is now staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and received about 20,000 calls last year. Other crisis services include assessments to determine if psychiatric hospitalization is needed for people experiencing mental health emergencies.
The agency also provides non-emergency mental health services to about 3,000 people annually, most of whom are uninsured or under-insured.
The group won't throw a party this month to celebrate its 45 years, however, board member Paula Lewis said. The nonprofit organization faces a $1.2 million cut in funding from the county's Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. The reduction is about 15 percent of Rescue's operating budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.
"That is just huge for us," Jan Eppard, interim chief executive officer, said, adding that the loss of funds will mean cuts in programming and staff. Also facing cuts are the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Toledo, which likely will lose $136,000, about half of the group's budget, and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, which stands to lose about $91,000 annually it budgets for helping low-income people with mental health issues sign up for federal Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
Although Rescue started as a one-man operation, it quickly grew. Within months, the Toledo Area Council of Churches and Jewish Welfare Federation joined forces with Father Crawford, with clergy staffing the phones in 12-hour shifts.
Eventually, professional psychiatrists joined their ranks; Rescue does not have any religious affiliation now. The agency continued to expand its services as it opened a residential treatment center and began working with people with drug and alcohol addictions. It added a program with field workers helping individuals who are too sick to seek treatment.
The era when Rescue started was completely different in knowledge about mental illness and treatment options, said Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"Stigma was high. Few people talked about mental illness in their families. Many doctors as well as the general public thought mental illness was the result of poor parenting," Mr. Carolla stated in an email, adding that many treatments for mental illness, such as lithium as a mood stabilizer and anti-depressants such as Prozac, weren't approved by the Food and Drug Administration until the 1970s and 1980s.
"Today, there's greater scientific knowledge and public understanding. There's less stigma at least to the degree that mental illness is talked about more openly. However, there's still a long way to go. Mental-health care still exists within a fragmented system. As a society, we still need to invest in community supports and services. Stigma still needs to be overcome. We still need more effective medicines," Mr. Carolla added.
Ms. Eppard said Rescue is proud of the relationships it has built in the community over the decades.
Officials at the Lucas County jail say they work closely with Rescue.
"They have the specialized training to deal with people with severe mental health issues. And they have a facility that can deal with them better than we can," said Jim O'Neal, corrections administrator at the jail. Valerie Sylvester, the jail's director of medical services, said the facility calls Rescue several times a month.
Deborah Duris, clinical nurse manager for psychiatric and behavioral health at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, said Rescue provides a valuable service for many people in crisis.
"The Rescue mental health treatment team communicates thorough patient assessments to our clinicians prior to safe transportation to our facility. The Rescue outreach team provides diagnostic assessments for patients in our emergency department and medical surgical units found to be a danger to themselves or others. [Rescue's] continued commitment to quality services for Mercy Saint Vincent Medical Center patients is deeply appreciated," Ms. Duris said in a statement.
Ms. Eppard said she is most concerned about the impending cuts that will affect the agency's prehospital screening and admissions -- 3,700 individuals were hospitalized by Rescue last year.
"That is the most worrisome part of all the program cuts," she said, because they affect people with serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and people who are psychotic, suicidal, or have homicidal tendencies.
"These are individuals with severe needs," Ms. Eppard said, adding that she worries the cuts could lead to these individuals being seen at a higher rate in emergency rooms or languishing in jails.
Contact Kate Giammarise at: email@example.com or 419-724-6091.