Bert Nash, Douglas County confirm Treatment and Recovery Center’s partial opening date is set for Monday; county releases operating agreement for center

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

The Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County is pictured on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022.

Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and Douglas County have confirmed that the county’s behavioral health crisis center is ready to begin a phased opening on Monday, starting with its front-of-house urgent care unit.

Bert Nash and the county announced April 10 as the official opening date Thursday afternoon, after the Douglas County Commission approved a lease and operating agreement with Bert Nash to run the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County, 1000 W. Second St., at its meeting on Wednesday.

That matches a tentative timeline the county first outlined in late March that will see the facility open its other portion — the observation and stabilization unit for patients who need to stay for 23 to 72 hours — on May 25 at partial capacity. Bert Nash and the county also confirmed Thursday that May 25 is still the target for that portion of the facility to open.

The specifics about the county’s agreement with Bert Nash weren’t clear until Thursday afternoon, however, nearly a day after it was approved. That’s when the county provided the Journal-World with a copy of the document. The initial term began Thursday, April 6, and runs through the end of this year, at which point Bert Nash is eligible for an additional presumptive one-year term running through 2024, at the county’s discretion.

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told commissioners at their meeting on Wednesday that the document hadn’t been finalized until around 1 p.m. that afternoon, so commissioners had yet to see that version ahead of the meeting. The only official look at the operating agreement was behind closed doors, as commissioners met in a 20-minute executive session to review the document alongside Plinsky, county attorneys and Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects.

Later on in the meeting, commissioners approved the operating agreement without the public having seen it, citing a desire to avoid pushing back the opening timeline any further. The other document approved Wednesday, the TRC’s lease agreement, was included with the meeting’s agenda packet. The county did not provide an answer to an emailed question about why the joint operating agreement wasn’t made available to the public once its drafting was completed at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

That joint operating agreement is what commits the county to potentially spend millions of dollars in public funds for the center, and it makes the county “the payor of last resort for the services, facility, center and other costs associated with operation of the center.”

The operating agreement outlines the county’s expected funding support for the center — $133,333.33 per month, or just under $1.6 million for the first year of the contract. Plinsky confirmed at Wednesday’s meeting that would be the maximum in funding support for year one, with the county’s funding commitment subject to an increased cap of $2.8 million if the agreement is renewed for the presumptive second year-long term.

The agreement also lays out exactly what services Bert Nash will provide as operator for the facility — namely, that the center “should accept all patients for evaluation and treatment despite their acuity to the greatest extent possible.” Acuity refers to the level of severity and complexity of a patient’s behavioral health crisis. Specifically, the agreement stated that Bert Nash shall make every effort to treat individuals “who are experiencing psychiatric and/or substance use emergencies which put them at risk for harm to self or others.”

The agreement also acknowledges that the center will treat and schedule patients “without regard to payor status,” meaning they will receive care regardless of whether they have health insurance.

Beyond simply rendering behavioral health crisis services, Bert Nash will also be expected to train law enforcement and first responders about the facility’s services and assist in maintaining and strengthening relationships with other community partners in the health care spectrum, for example.

Other details from the agreement include:

• Patients in the urgent care unit of the facility are expected to be seen within one hour of arrival.

• Either Bert Nash or the county can choose to end the joint operating agreement without cause as long as the other party gives 90 days advance notice.

• The operating agreement gives the county some authority to approve or reject operating budgets for the center, but no such operating budgets were included with the operating agreement released on Thursday. On Wednesday, Plinsky did share a rough idea of the TRC’s 2023 and 2024 budgets, though. Plinsky said the facility’s estimated expenses for 2023 should be just over $8.8 million. For 2024, Plinsky said the total estimated expenses are higher at $10.4 million to account for the full year of expenses.


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