State funding for behavioral health crisis center is top legislative priority for Douglas County

photo by: Contributed photo

The site plan for the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County shows the planned construction site for the project. To the left, listed as Douglas County Recovery Center, shows where a planned crisis center is expected to be constructed by the end of 2021. To the right, listed as Tier II and Tier III Apartments, is the housing portion of the project that recently began construction.

Providing state funding for a planned behavioral health crisis center is the top issue the Douglas County Commission wants lawmakers to consider when they return to Topeka next month.

In its recently approved Legislative Priority Statement for the 2020 session, the commission said its No. 1 priority is for the state government to help fund the construction of the crisis center planned as part of the Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Campus.

Commissioner Nancy Thellman told the Journal-World on Friday that the commission believed the request is appropriate because the local crisis center may help alleviate the number of mental health patients in state hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie.

“Their high priority is to keep folks with serious mental illness in their home counties, if possible, out of the state hospitals,” Thellman said of state lawmakers. “Our crisis center will go a long way to help them with that goal.”

“… We’re already having good luck doing that with programs we have in place, but with a (local) crisis center added we can help keep those numbers down even more,” she said.

Along with the funding for the crisis center, the commission outlined a second priority of expanding the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway to four lanes — a long-sought project from the county and the City of Lawrence — and listed other issues it believes are important to the Douglas County Community. It will formally share the priorities and issues with area lawmakers during the Legislative Breakfast on Jan. 10.

The commission’s decision to make state funding for the crisis center its top priority comes shortly after it authorized sending a letter to Gov. Laura Kelly requesting $750,000 of state funding to construct the facility. The letter requested that funding be included in the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget, which the Kansas Legislature will craft during its session that begins in January.

The letter says the requested funding will be used for planning, construction and base services associated with the crisis center. It also notes that the county’s request is similar to requests that have been granted in previous state budgets for crisis centers in Wyandotte, Sedgwick, Shawnee, Riley and Saline counties.

The county recently broke ground on the housing portion of the Treatment and Recovery Campus, located in the 1000 block of West Second Street, just north of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. The crisis center is planned to be built at 146 Maine St., which is directly west of the housing portion of the campus.

The proposed crisis center, which doesn’t have an official name yet, is still in the planning stages. Karrey Britt, county spokeswoman, previously told the Journal-World that the county and its community partners were aiming to complete its construction by the end of 2021.

Thellman said she believes state lawmakers are keeping an eye on Douglas County’s planned crisis center because of its partnership between the county government and local behavioral health agencies, such as LMH Health, Bert Nash and others.

“We have worked so hard with so many agencies in a collaborative way to plan a unique crisis center of our community,” Thellman said. “They’ve been watching it with interest because they feel it’s something that could be shared across the state. I would hope they look kindly on Douglas County when making their funding decisions.”

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