Letter to the editor: Benefits of jail expansion

To the editor:

I didn’t vote for Sam “What, Me Worry?” Brownback, and unless hell freezes over I won’t be voting for Kris “I Play a Lawyer on TV” Kobach.

But I’m planning on casting a vote in favor of expanding the Douglas County Jail and building the behavioral health campus.

Here’s why: The jail has more inmates than it can safely and efficiently house. One way or another, it’s going to be expanded. We can pay for it now or we can pay for it later. But make no mistake, we’re going to pay for it.

The benefits of the behavioral health campus far outweigh the concerns over whether the jail expansion can be put off for a few years.

Having the two initiatives on an all-or-nothing ballot is awkward. But it doesn’t offset the fact that the jail is overcrowded, and that the behavioral health campus will close many of the gaping holes in our approach to caring for those living with serious mental illnesses.

Our current approach, much affected by the Brownback administration’s budget cuts and its decision to limit access to crisis beds at Osawatomie State Hospital, has shifted this burden of care onto Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where, not too long ago, the emergency room was caring for 11 mental health-crisis patients at the same time because OSH was full.

This is unacceptable.