County to help Housing Authority on proposal to build apartments for residents with behavioral health issues

Douglas County commissioners have directed county staff to work with the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority on a proposal to build housing for people with behavioral health issues.

The housing would be at the site of the proposed crisis intervention center. The proposal discussed Wednesday was the same that Shannon Oury, executive director of the Housing Authority, first presented to commissioners at a Sept. 27 work session. The plan involves building eight to 10 apartments to be available on a long-term basis for those with persistent behavioral health issues.

Oury said the Housing Authority had $2 million it had saved through efficiently managing U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants in the past. It can use those funds on the project but can’t actually build the apartments. The plan is for the county to build the units, then be fully reimbursed by the Housing Authority. Oury said Wednesday that reimbursement would include design costs.

The Housing Authority would manage the units and pay for their ongoing maintenance, Oury said.

The County Commission agreed to have staff work on a design and contract for the apartments. Before commissioners are asked to give final approval for the arrangement, the Housing Authority needs HUD to sign off on a project contract and get the Lawrence City Commission’s approval, Oury said.

Obtaining HUD approval is a complex process, but she has successfully obtained it before and was confident the agency would agree to the project, Oury said.

The project also would require the county to develop a site plan for the entire site of the proposed crisis intervention center, Commissioner Nancy Thellman said. That would include the location of the future crisis center, the Housing Authority’s apartments and any housing built for short-term stays and transitional lodging.

The proposed site is across West Second Street from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.