Douglas County commissioners to discuss behavioral-health housing needs at work session

The Douglas County commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the old county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will discuss adding housing on the site of the proposed mental health crisis intervention center as a way to aid patients in their recovery.

The discussion will be part of a work session, scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. It is the second of five work sessions the commission has scheduled on issues involving the expansion of the Douglas County Jail and the proposed crisis intervention center.

The county has secured land on which to build a crisis intervention center across West Second Street from the home of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, 200 Maine St. The work session’s discussion will involve building housing on the site for those with behavioral health issues.

Shannon Oury, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, said the authority’s board supported building eight to 10 units at the site.

“We have the funding available,” she said. “We are willing to use it to build the units we can.”

Bob Tryanski, Douglas County director of behavioral health projects, said the proposed housing would address a gap in the community’s continuum of behavioral health care for those recovering from crisis situations or in need of long-term supportive care. Without such a housing option, those released from a crisis care situation often return to the streets, to a homeless shelter or to a living arrangement that contributed to their illness, he said.

To be discussed with commissioners will be the possibility of providing short-term respite/recovery housing, transitional housing for up to a month and long-term supportive housing on the West Second Street site, Tryanski said.

“Everything that we heard in the community and also as we look to other communities that are having success in providing intervention and treatment is that housing has to be a priority,” he said. “It makes sense to provide supportive housing so individuals don’t cycle back through the hospital emergency department and jail. Other communities have found that is a better investment, yields good outcome and reduces strain on the system.”

The plans to be discussed were developed with county staffers and representatives from DCCCA, Bert Nash, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the housing authority, Tryanski said.

Oury said although the housing authority had funds to build eight to 10 units, it would not have the money to provide the supportive programming associated with them. That, and any additional units deemed necessary, would require a county commitment, she said.

Commissioners will continue the work session Oct. 4 with a review of the finance mechanism available for use on the jail expansion and crisis intervention center.