Douglas County Peer Fellows Program gets green light from commissioners

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman, left, reads a motion to approve the Douglas County Behavioral Health Peer Fellows Program during the commission's Wednesday, March 27, 2019 meeting. Also pictured are Commission Chair Michelle Derusseau, center, and Vice Chair Patrick Kelly.

In a quick motion on Wednesday, Douglas County commissioners approved a program that will place behavioral health peer specialists in the emergency department at LMH Health.

The Douglas County Peer Fellows Program will train peer specialists and provide them with professional development, functioning similarly to an internship, the Journal-World has reported. They will work to help those who visit the emergency department because they’re experiencing mental health or substance-use crises.

The program will cost up to $192,000 for its first year, Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, told commissioners. Of that, $160,000 will go toward peer stipends and $32,000 toward supervision, all from existing funding.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Bob Tryanski, Douglas County’s director of behavioral health projects, speaks to the Douglas County Commission at its Wednesday, March 27, 2019 meeting.

For the second year, costs will increase to $212,000, with an extra $20,000 for peer stipends. The first group of six peers is expected to be in the program for 18 months rather than the 12 months for subsequent groups, Tryanski said.

“There will be some kinks to work out in the system,” Tryanski told commissioners. “We want to make sure that they get the full benefit of being part of a program that is robust and running smoothly.”

The commission approved the proposal with no questions or discussion. However, Commissioner Nancy Thellman then said that the quick action represented a lot of background work and hope for the future of the county’s integrated behavioral health services.

“I am incredibly grateful for the hard work that you did, Bob, and the team that’s behind you in that work,” she said, “and to the peers themselves — it’s a courageous thing to do.”

In other business,

• Commissioners attended a work session on private county roads. They agreed that county staff should work to compile a more “user-friendly” application and process for residents of private roads who seek to make those roads public, although commissioners overall would discourage residents from pursuing the process.

Although those determinations would be made on a case-by-case basis, commissioners wanted to draft guidelines to ease the burden on planning staff members, who said they get multiple calls each week from interested rural property owners. First and foremost, townships would need to agree to maintain the roads. A draft will come back to the commission at a future meeting.

• Bettis Asphalt, which had sought the commission’s approval on March 20 to put a temporary asphalt plant at 1454 East 2300 Road, withdrew its application.

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