Douglas County official says scaled-back behavioral health projects are still a big step forward

photo by: Journal-World Graphic

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

Although plans for a new crisis center and enhanced mental health services have been scaled back by more than $700,000, Douglas County’s director of behavioral health projects said the projects are still a big step forward for the county.

“The good news is we are still committed to a broad array of services,” Bob Tryanski told the Douglas County Commission at its Wednesday meeting.

Tryanski and a coalition of eight county partnering agencies were tasked with paring down the project so that its costs could be funded by a quarter-cent sales tax. The revised plans Tryanski presented for a behavioral health campus, its operational costs and other enhanced services would cost $4.97 million.

That’s in contrast to the $5.75 million in annual mental health spending that was part of the Proposition 1 ballot question. In May, county voters rejected Proposition 1, which would have authorized a half-cent sales tax to fund those projects and an expansion of the county jail.

The referendum on the new quarter-cent sales tax proposal will be part of the Nov. 6 general election. Advance voting for the general election starts Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Most of the changes to the plan involve reducing the scope of mental health services, Tryanski said. Among the cutbacks are:

• Elimination of a previously planned six- to eight-bed sobering unit in the crisis center, in which intoxicated residents would have sobered up. Tryanksi said sobering did not provide revenue and that the function could be fulfilled in the stabilization beds at the crisis center. There could be adjustments or bed reductions to the planned crisis center’s eight-bed stabilization unit, but that decision would wait until construction costs were better developed, he said.

• Elimination of 2 1/2 full-time equivalent positions at the campus’ transitional group home for people recovering from a behavioral health crisis. The plan originally called for 14 full-time equivalent Bert Nash positions for the group home; Tryanski said that would be reduced to 11.5, saving more than $100,000 a year in operational costs.

• Reduction in the scope of a previously planned mobile team to respond to crises. The mobile team was originally envisioned as a 24-hour service, but Tryanski said the tighter budget meant the team would only be available after hours.

The new plans that Tryanski presented would also add a few things — a 10-bed detoxification unit for female clients and two more crisis beds in the transitional group home.

Tryanski said the housing components would all be open by 2020 and the crisis center would open in 2021.

Sarah Plinsky, assistant county administrator, said the quarter-cent sales tax would start being collected April 1, 2019, if authorized. The county would get its first distribution of revenue from the state about three months later. She was working with the Kansas Department of Revenue to get estimates about how much revenue the tax would generate in its first year, she said.

More details of the plan can be found on the county’s website,

Correction: A previous version of this article included the incorrect date for the start of advance voting. Advance voting will begin Wednesday, Oct. 17.


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