You don’t see big gatherings to celebrate construction milestones on major construction projects anymore.

But that doesn’t mean those milestones have to go unnoticed or completely uncelebrated.

This week, Guilford County put out one of its more interesting and poetic press releases to call attention to the fact that, despite the coronavirus pandemic, excellent progress is still being made on the county’s new adult mental health center building – the lynchpin of the major project meant to transform the way mental health services are provided in Guilford County.

The mental health center at 931 3rd St. just north of downtown Greensboro, is the first of two crisis centers to be built on the county’s mental health campus now under construction. There will be a center for adults and another for adolescents and children.

The $20-million adult center will offer comprehensive behavioral health services around the clock 365 days a year, and 366 days in leap years. The county has been expecting the State of North Carolina to cover $7 million of that cost in the 2019-2020 state budget – the only problem is that the state hasn’t adopted a budget this fiscal year due to disagreements between the Republican led legislature and the Democratic governor.  

But county officials remain undaunted and pleased with the progress.

The Adult Behavioral Crisis Center is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year and is expected to begin treating patients in the spring of next year.

The release – titled, “Revolutionary Mental Health Delivery Model Reaches Milestone with Little Fanfare” – states, “There were no tents, large crowds, or prepared speeches Friday morning as the first of two centers under construction for the Guilford County Behavioral Health Crisis Collaborative quietly reached a construction milestone. The final steel beam of the Guilford County Adult Behavioral Health Crisis Center was put into place Friday, May 1, 2020 at noon. Often referred to as a ‘topping-out ceremony,’ these events are usually a time of great celebration.”

Guilford County commissioners and county staff have been very proud of the large and complex private-public mental health care agreement that took over a year to bang out. Guilford County government is partnering with Cone Health and Sandhills Center – the local management entity and managed care organization serving Guilford County residents – to provide round the clock mental health care in a holistic framework that includes medical care, substance abuse treatment and other targeted and specialized treatment of issues related to mental health.

For now, the attention is focused on the construction part of the initiative. On the morning of May 1, when the weather was absolutely perfect – small groups of Guilford County officials – wearing masks and practicing social distancing, of course – took turns signing the last structural beam before it was put in place.

At the ceremony, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, along with several other county commissioners, watched the placement of that beam.

Phillips calls the initiative “a remarkable project that I am grateful to be a part of,” and added that it will provide “high-quality care for those experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis is critical to the long term, overall health and wellbeing of our community.”

The chairman also said that “an extraordinary amount of work” has been put into the new behavioral healthcare model that will fire up next year. It is very exciting to see the building take shape.”

The new structure of mental health care services is meant to be a model for other parts of the state and country.

Commissioner Kay Cashion, who’s been the Board of Commissioners’ go to woman on mental health issues for years, said this week that she’s often asked for assistance by county residents who have family members in crisis but who don’t know where to go for help.

“The crisis centers will serve as a portal of entry for those in crisis and in need of comprehensive services,” Cashion said.