A tour of two facilities on Douglas County’s behavioral health campus; residents expected to move in soon

photo by: Mike Yoder

Construction for the permanent supportive housing complex The Cottages at Green Lake, right, and the group-housing behavioral health facility known as Transitions, left, was recently completed. They are two of the three parts that make up the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County.

The dream of Douglas County and local health professionals to construct and operate a behavioral health recovery campus is nearing fruition.

Two of the three facilities for the planned Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County, at 1000 W. Second St., recently wrapped up construction.

When all three are completed, the campus will be a vital part of what county and health officials have referred to as the “system of care” by creating three tiers of supportive housing, taking in individuals when they are experiencing a behavioral health crisis and helping them to recover to the point where they can live in permanent housing.

During a recent ribbon-cutting celebration for one of the facilities, Bob Tryanski, Douglas County’s director for behavioral health projects, said county and health officials met years ago to discuss the possibility of constructing the facilities.

Tryanski said the discussions began with comparatively modest hopes. But former County Commissioner Mike Gaughan asked what it would take to get all three facilities built, which led to officials expanding the scope of the project.

“What if we built a campus to support people throughout their life instead of a building for a moment in time?” Tryanksi said during the event. “Some of the elected officials began saying, ‘Why wouldn’t we do that?’ (That) thinking is how we got here today,” he added.

Construction for two of those facilities — a group housing facility known as Transitions and a permanent affordable housing complex called The Cottages at Green Lake — began in the fall of 2019 and finished in November of this year, costing a total of $3.78 million that was funded by various sources, including contributions from local, state and federal agencies. Additionally, the county included a portion of the costs to be covered by its recently approved bond sale.

Both facilities are expected to begin housing residents in January. Officials recently gave the Journal-World a tour of the finished construction, showing how they plan to help county residents in need.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This is the kitchen and living room area of one of 10 apartments at The Cottages at Green Lake, on West Second Street. The separate apartments will provide permanent supportive housing for individuals with mental health issues.

The Cottages

At the east side of the campus sit 10 one-bedroom apartments that will serve as permanent affordable and supportive housing to residents with behavioral health issues. The apartments will be operated by Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, while many other local organizations will also provide supportive services.

The apartments include the essentials: a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space. Shannon Oury, executive director for the housing authority, noted that the apartments have some built-in furniture, such as an entertainment center in the living room and a bedframe in the bedroom, to make moving in easier.

“Quite a bit of research went into lessening the daily frustration of living for our clientele,” Oury said. “All you have to do to move in is need a mattress, a couch and a couple bar stools. I did that on purpose for the ease of living.”

She also noted that the apartments include large windows to allow for a significant natural lighting, which can help counteract depression.

Oury said the purpose of the apartments, which are near LMH Health and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, was to help residents with their struggles while also allowing them to live independently.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This is the view into the bedroom and living space of one of 10 apartments of The Cottages at Green Lake, on West Second Street. Some of the furniture is built-in.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Shannon Oury, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, tours one of the 10 apartments that will provide permanent supportive housing for individuals with persistent mental illness. The apartments, known as The Cottages at Green Lake, are part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County.


In the middle of the campus sits the two-story group housing facility. Transitions, which will be operated by Bert Nash, will provide long-term transitional housing — for between six and 12 months — to those recovering from behavioral health issues. Through the housing, Bert Nash will provide the residents with recovery programming to help them transition back into the general community.

On the top floor of the facility, the group home includes eight bedrooms, four of which have two beds and four of which one bed, for a total of 12 beds. The floor also includes an open area for Bert Nash staff and residents to interact.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Bert Nash CEO Patrick Schmitz is pictured on the second floor of Transitions, part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County. The second floor of the facility includes eight bedrooms, which could house a total of 12 individuals.

On the main floor, the facility features a living room and a large shared kitchen and dining area. While the residents will be receiving care from Bert Nash staff, they will be responsible for their own food, said Mathew Faulk, housing program manager for Bert Nash.

The majority of the facility is living space for the residents. Faulk said that was done on purpose to help transition the residents into a permanent housing situation in the future.

“The idea is that this is a residence, this is a home,” Faulk said. “So we limit the kind of institutional and clinical feel.”

However, on the east side of the main floor is the staff area, which includes two separate crisis observation bedrooms. Faulk said those rooms could be used by residents of the house or individuals from the community, giving them a safe environment to work through the crisis alongside Bert Nash staff.

Additionally, while the main floor includes an entrance for the residents of the facility, it also includes a secure entry on its west side. The secure entry follows a stairwell into the basement, where staff can check in new residents as they enter.

The basement also includes meeting space, which could be used for group therapy sessions, among other things.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Mathew Faulk, housing program manager at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, talks with attendees in the shared kitchen and dining area of the group-housing facility Transitions. The facility will provide transitional housing and behavioral health support to clients for up to 12 months.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This is a view inside a single-occupancy bedroom in the group-housing facility Transitions, part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County.

Faulk said the facility would help Bert Nash and the county provide behavioral health services that currently can’t be met, especially for those who need housing when experiencing a crisis.

“What we look forward to is that it provides that greater resource to meet the need right now,” Faulk said. “This will help us fill that gap.”

Future crisis and recovery center

The third and final piece of the campus, a 20,000-square-foot crisis and recovery center that will be directly west of Transitions, is currently under construction and is expected to be completed before the end of 2021 and to be operating sometime in early 2022.

That piece will be operated by a joint LMH Health and Bert Nash nonprofit organization and include crisis services provided by several community health organizations. The facility plan calls for a 23-hour observation unit, 72-hour stabilization unit and after-hours secure entry.

“This campus is going to change lives,” Tryanski said during the ribbon-cutting event. “This campus is going to save lives.”

Related coverage:

• Nov. 10, 2019 — Construction of behavioral health campus set to begin, but price tag for Douglas County may grow

• Feb. 16, 2020 — Health leaders provide updated facility design for planned Douglas County behavioral health crisis center

• Oct. 14, 2020 — Douglas County Commission approves financial plan for behavioral health crisis center project

• Oct. 23, 2020 — Douglas County, health partners break ground for construction of behavioral health crisis center

• Oct. 14, 2020 — Douglas County Commission authorizes sale of bonds to fund behavioral health campus projects; annual cost lower than originally expected

Contact Dylan Lysen

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