Health leaders provide updated facility design for planned Douglas County behavioral health crisis center

photo by: Contributed photo

An updated facility design for the Douglas County behavioral health crisis center lays out how the facility is expected to be used. Derrick Hurst of LMH Health explained three portions of the facility to Douglas County Commissioners on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. He focused on the access center, shown in pink; the 23-hour observation area, shown in teal; and the 72-hour stabilization area, shown in the darker blue. He also explained the facility will have a 24-hour secured entrance, shown on the left in red.

Local health officials helping Douglas County design a behavioral health crisis center are honing in on how it will look and operate.

However, they noted there are still key decisions they will need to sort out, such as the facility’s staffing.

A group of health professionals on Wednesday presented an updated design of the planned 20,000-square-foot facility — which is expected to be operational before the end of 2021 — to the Douglas County Commission, including a breakdown of areas within the building and how they will be used to serve individuals facing mental health and substance abuse crises.

Derrick Hurst, who is the project director for the team leading the creation of the center, explained to the commissioners that the new facility design includes three main portions that will be used to treat individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis — whether that’s a mental health crisis, a substance abuse crisis, or both.

“Throughout all of these services, we will be treating our neighbors and friends as the whole person that they are,” said Hurst, who is also the director of the integrated crisis team at LMH Health. “We’ll be able to help address those issues and assess and work through those issues at any of these levels of care.”

The crisis center, which will be located at the corner of Maine and West Second streets, is slated to be built as part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County, a behavioral health campus that Douglas County voters approved in November 2018. The housing portion of the campus is currently under construction in the 1000 block of West Second Street.

photo by: Contributed photo

The site plan for the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County shows the planned construction site for the project. The housing portion of the project, shown as Tier II and Tier III, is currently under construction.

Updated facility design

The first portion of the crisis center’s new design that Hurst explained is the access center, which Hurst referred to as the clinic’s “front door.” It is a walk-in behavioral health clinic. The area, which would be located on the south side of the building, would be used for intake services, assessment and brief crisis intervention.

The second portion, located in the north-central part of the facility, would be a secured 23-hour observation space where patients could sit in one of 16 recliners while health professionals provide intensive psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The area also allows patients to receive crisis intervention services and medication assistance or social detox services.

Hurst referred to that portion as “the side door” of the facility because it has a secondary, secured 24-hour entrance. Hurst noted the access center will not be a 24-hour entry point and the “side door” will serve as the after-hours entry.

“We will always be able to observe and accept folks,” Hurst said. “We will always have an option for somebody to come talk to somebody and have some assessment and make sure they are getting connected to the right resources.”

The third portion, which is located on the northeast section of the facility, would provide space for individuals who need a longer period to stabilize after a crisis, Hurst said. That portion, which includes 16 beds, would provide up to 72 hours of stabilization time — an extended version of the services that patients would get in the “side door” area. Hurst said it could also be used as a step-down unit for people who have been moved out of hospitalization for a behavioral health crisis.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Derrick Hurst of LMH Health explains to the Douglas County Commission an updated facility design for its planned behavioral health crisis center on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Hurst is the project director for the team leading the creation of the center.

Integrated staffing

While the crisis center team is in general agreement about the facility’s design, there are still gray areas that need to be resolved, such as how it will be staffed.

Patrick Schmitz, CEO of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, said both LMH Health and Bert Nash are expected to provide staff for the facility, but how they will split up services still needs to be worked out. He said it’s important those two entities find a strong structure so individuals receiving care get it seamlessly.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said other community behavioral health organizations, such as DCCCA and Heartland RADAC, could also have staff in the facility.

Schmitz said the organizations are in the process of developing the staffing structure.

“We’re not trying to recreate expertise, but utilize the expertise that exists and use it in an coordinated and very effective fashion, so that when a community member walks into the building, all they get is good-quality service,” Schmitz said. “That is the task of LMH and Bert Nash: to create a process that is seamless.”

Construction timeline

Douglas County officials previously said they expected the crisis center to be constructed by the end of 2021. Hurst said Wednesday the project is still on track to meet that expectation.

In an updated timeline, Hurst said construction crews could break ground as early as this fall. He said the project would probably be finished sometime near the end of 2021 and the facility would be operational shortly thereafter.

“We feel we’re on track to meet these dates,” Hurst said. “It’s really an exciting time for the work we are doing now.”

Plinsky told the Journal-World Friday that the county does not yet have a cost estimate for the construction of the facility. She said the county will look to hire a construction manager for the project, which will help define the cost, later this year.

In 2018, county voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax that provides the county an estimated $4.9 million of revenue a year for mental health initiatives, according to previous Journal-World reporting. At the time, the county estimated that the majority of the annual sales tax revenue, about $4.15 million, would go toward operational costs at the behavioral health campus and programming for mental health and drug addiction in the county. The remaining money, about $750,000, would then be used to pay off the debt incurred for the construction of the campus.

Plinsky said Friday those were rough estimates and the county continues to refine them, but she did not provide any updated figures.

The County Commission recently sent a letter to Gov. Laura Kelly that requested $750,000 of state funding to support the construction of the crisis center. At the end of 2019, commissioners also made that the top priority on their annual wish list for the legislative session.

The housing portion of the behavioral health campus — which includes two housing options, a transitional group home called “The Transitions” and permanent housing units known as “The Cottages” — is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in the fall.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Structures that will soon be permanent housing known as “The Cottages” on the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County are pictured on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. The housing facilities are currently under construction at the 1000 block of West Second Street.


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