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Common Ground evolving mental health crisis care, exploring artificial intelligence chat line

It’s been five years since Common Ground opened its Resource and Crisis Center in Pontiac and the organization is continuing to evolve how it serves the 8,000 people who come through its doors on Telegraph Road each year.

The nonprofit center is home to a variety of mental health programs including a sober support unit that aims to have clients in treatment in 24-hours, a crisis residential unit for those needing low-level behavioral care and a short-term stay crisis assessment and stabilization unit.

Common Ground served 88,000 people last year between its Pontiac center and its 24-hour shelter for at-risk youth in Royal Oak. Roughly 50,000 of those people used the center’s crisis hotline, according to Jeff Kapuscinski, director of business development. The nonprofit began expanding its texting hotline to a 24/7 service in 2018.

“It’s been an unabashed success. We saw 25 percent more people walk in through this building one year ago and we’re continuing to grow our texting and chat hotlines,” Kapuscinski said. “A lot of people affiliate this program with young people, but we’ve found a large audience of people use it. It works for those who can’t speak out loud, like a domestic violence situation.”

Volunteers at the hotline have access to a database of 2,500 resources. A majority of the calls are for lower-level crisis’, like housing issues or unemployment. In order to free up the lines for higher-level situations, such as a mental health crisis, the nonprofit is turning to an artificial intelligence chat-bot.