Public invited to design workshop for mental health crisis center

Construction equipment sits idle at the site of the former Lawrence VFW, 138 Alabama St., Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center has designated the site as the home of a proposed Douglas County crisis intervention center.

The Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and Treanor Architects will give the public a second opportunity Tuesday to comment on the design of a proposed mental health crisis intervention center.

Jeff Lane, of Treanor Architects, said Treanor and Bert Nash will host a design workshop Tuesday in second-floor conference rooms of Bert Nash, 200 Maine St. The all-day event will begin with a morning discussion of representatives from Treanor, Bert Nash and other stakeholders. The public then will have two opportunities to share their ideas on the design.

The first opportunity will be from 2 to 5 p.m. with an event that Lane said would look much like the Feb. 9 and 10 charettes at which the public was first asked to provide comments and ideas for the center.

There will be five to six architects in attendance to answer questions, listen to ideas or even assist in getting those on paper, Lane said. To help stimulate creativity, Treanor will have preliminary drawings developed from ideas shared at the charette, he said.

The public workshop will take a 30-minute break before resuming for a 5 to 7:30 p.m. session. Lane said new design options developed from the morning and afternoon sessions will be on view at the evening gathering. All attending will once again be invited to comment and provide ideas and concepts before being asked to vote on what designs and ideas most appeal to them.

“We will be taking a lot of ideas from the staff and community,” Lane said. “We want the community to have a voice in what the building will look like and what programs it needs to provide for the community.”

The intensive public-involvement process is one Treanor developed from its two-decade involvement in the design of public safety buildings, Lane said. The firm has found the “low-ego” approach that values public input allows for greater ownership of the end design and greatly reduces the chance architects will be told to start the design process again, he said.

The process won’t end with Tuesday’s workshop. There will be another workshop in the coming weeks when the public will be invited to comment on the crisis center’s exterior with the help of more early drawings, Lane said.

“It will be very similar,” he said. “We’ll put together exterior images and materials to present to the public. People will have the opportunity to say ‘No, I don’t like the use of metal siding. I’d rather use natural materials.'”

The center would provide a local facility where those experiencing a mental health crisis could stay and receive treatment overnight or for a more extended period. Currently, there are no such beds available in the county, and they are becoming more difficult to find in the area.

The Douglas County Commission and Bert Nash entered a memorandum of understanding in November that will have the county build the mental health crisis center on land Bert Nash owns north of its home in the Community Health Facility. The site is north of Second Street and adjacent to the Sandra J. Shaw Community Health Park. In January, the County Commission awarded Treanor the contract to design the crisis center.

Although the County Commission agreed Feb. 24 to link consideration of building the crisis center with the expansion of the Douglas County Jail and the creation of a mental health court, it has yet to decide on how to finance the construction of either project.