Douglas County Commission to consider authorizing financial plan for proposed behavioral health crisis center

photo by: Contributed photo/Treanor HL

This rendering shows Douglas County's planned behavioral health crisis center, which would be part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County, located at 1000 W. Second St., near the corner of Maine and West Second streets. The facility is expected to be constructed by the end of 2021.

The creation of a Douglas County behavioral health crisis center could take another step toward reality this week when the County Commission considers a roughly $10.5 million financial plan for the project.

During their meeting Wednesday, the commissioners will consider approving a total project budget of about $10.43 million for the facility, which includes paying for the construction, facility equipment and professional services costs for the entire project.

The crisis center is a planned 20,000-square-foot facility that would provide behavioral health crisis services. The facility includes 16 spaces for people to receive 23 hours of observation from behavioral health professionals and another 16 bedrooms for others to receive 72 hours of observation.

It will be part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County — located at 1000 W. Second St., near the corner of Maine and West Second streets — which will provide three housing and treatment facilities for Douglas County residents dealing with behavioral health issues. Construction projects for the other two portions of the campus, Transitions and The Cottages, are expected to be completed next month, the Journal-World has reported.

According to budget documents provided to the commissioners, the construction of the crisis center facility is estimated to cost about $7.9 million. That is the cost county staff and construction managers were referring to when they told the commissioners last week the construction would cost roughly $8 million. Jay Zimmerschied, the county’s director of capital projects, said at the time that the construction costs came in lower than originally expected. The documents provided to the commissioners note the county’s earlier estimate for the construction of the facility was $9.06 million.

But the project costs includes more than the construction of the facility, County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told the Journal-World on Monday. The total cost will also include outfitting the facility with equipment, furniture and fixtures for an estimated total of about $1.4 million and paying professional services, such as architectural design fees, for a total of about $1.1 million. Additionally, among that $1.1 million is about $400,000 set aside for contingency. Those funds can be used to cover costs of the project that came in above the estimated budget, if needed.

To pay for the project, the county will use $750,000 provided by the state and revenue generated through its quarter-cent sales tax for mental health services, which voters approved in 2018. Cammy Owens, budget manager for the county, said the sales tax fund currently has about $5 million and is expected to reach $7.3 million at the beginning of the 2021 budget in January.

Plinsky said the county plans to take on debt to finance the project, then pay the costs off with the sales tax fund. She said county staff is still working on what the debt service costs will be. According to budget documents, the sales tax was expected to generate about $4.9 million of revenue for the county this year. Next year, Owens said the county estimates it will generate about $4.7 million, coming in slightly lower to account for an expected recession associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Once the facility is up and running, Plinsky said the county will also have operational costs to cover, but she did not yet have an estimated annual total for that cost yet. However, she said she believes the costs will be within the available annual sales tax revenue.

When operational, the facility is expected to be managed by the recently established nonprofit organization Behavioral Health Partners Inc., the Journal-World has reported. The nonprofit will be governed by a nine-member board, with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, LMH Health and the County Commission each appointing three members.

County officials have previously said they expected construction to begin this fall and be completed by the end of 2021. If the commissioners approve the project Wednesday, the county plans to host a groundbreaking ceremony noon Friday, Oct. 23. The event is not open to the public because of the ongoing pandemic, but will be streamed on the LMH Health Facebook page,

The County Commission will convene Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for a regular business meeting. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 953-2078-9538.

Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website, as usual. The meeting’s full agenda may also be found on the county’s website.

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

• March 27, 2020 — Douglas County crisis center receives $750K in state budget

• Oct. 7, 2020 — Construction of Douglas County behavioral health crisis center expected to cost $8 million

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