Douglas County commissioners to vote on behavioral health program featuring peer fellows

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Leaders of Douglas County and of local behavioral health programming came to the table at the County Commission's work session on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, to discuss a proposed peer fellows program. Facing forward, from left to right, are Interim County Administrator Sarah Plinsky; Derrick Hurst, director of the Integrated Crisis Team at LMH Health; Bill Reilly, peer support program manager for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center; Sandra Dixon, director of behavioral health services at DCCCA; Bob Tryanski, Douglas County's director of behavioral health programs; and Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman. Facing away from the camera are Douglas County Commission Vice Chair Patrick Kelly and Chair Michelle Derusseau.

A behavioral health program that would place several peer specialists in the LMH Health emergency department will come up for a vote at Wednesday’s Douglas County Commission meeting.

As the Journal-World reported on March 11, the Douglas County Peer Fellows Program would train peer specialists and provide them with professional development. The program would work like an internship, with peers working 20 hours per week, roughly split into 16 hours spent in the emergency department and four spent in training for leadership, mental health first aid and other strategies to help those with mental illness.

Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, wrote in an update from a previous budget estimate that the program would cost up to $192,000 for its first year. Of that, $160,000 would go toward peer stipends — funds that would come from an equipment reserve designated for behavioral health projects — and $32,000 for supervision, to come from existing funding through the 2019 behavioral health projects budget.

For the second year, costs would increase to $212,000, with an extra $20,000 for peer stipends, from the same funding sources. Karrey Britt, the county’s communications specialist, said via email that the first group of six peers were expected to be in the program for 18 months rather than the 12 months for subsequent groups, so there would be some overlap.

County behavioral health leaders have said that peer specialists could help by, among other things, engaging clients who are experiencing behavioral health or substance-use crises by sharing from the perspective of someone who has actually lived through similar situations. To read the Journal-World article from a March 6 work session about the program, visit

In other business,

• Commissioners will attend a 4 p.m. work session on the history of the county’s codes on private roads and the process to convert them to public roads. Commission Chair Michelle Derusseau previously requested more information on those subjects after hearing from some constituents in townships.

• A request deferred from last week’s meeting to place a temporary asphalt plant at 1454 East 2300 Road could return to the commission. Rich Eckert, general counsel for Bettis Asphalt, said on March 20 that if he could get approval to place the site on the other side of the Johnson County line, he might not need to seek Douglas County’s approval.

The commission will meet for a 4 p.m. work session and 5:30 p.m. regular meeting Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Complete agenda materials are available via

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