Douglas County, health partners break ground for construction of behavioral health crisis center

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman speaks to a crowd about the partnerships between county and local health organizations to create a behavioral health crisis center, during a ceremonial groundbreaking event on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Construction of the crisis center is expected to be completed before the end of 2021.

The word “love” is not often associated with county government, Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said Friday.

But she said that was the only word that fit regarding the work Douglas County and local health organizations have done toward establishing a new campus focused on behavioral health housing and treatment, which will include a 20,000-square-foot crisis center.

“In this instance, only love will do,” Thellman said. “The truth is each one of us knows someone, or loves someone, or is someone who may need this crisis center someday.”

Along with representatives from LMH Health, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, County Commissioners Patrick Kelly, Michelle Derusseau and Thellman ceremoniously broke ground at the site that will be the future home of the crisis center.

The center, which is expected to be constructed by the end of 2021, will be the largest piece 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 other two portions of the campus — a group housing facility called Transitions and a permanent affordable housing complex called The Cottages — are scheduled to finish construction next month.

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

The Douglas County Commission and representatives from LMH Health, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services shovel dirt for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of a behavioral health crisis center on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

Thellman on Friday said she hoped that those who are served by the crisis center would receive not only expert clinical attention, but also “tender, loving care and compassion all along the way.” She thanked the health and construction organizations that have teamed up with the county to establish the center, adding that it has not been an easy process.

She also said the project would not be possible if it were not for the Douglas County community, which voted to approve a quarter-cent sales tax to support the project in 2018. She called the community support “a game changer” for the county’s behavioral health systems.

Russ Johnson, president and CEO for LMH Health, echoed Thellman’s comments, adding that the the crisis center was already a success because of the amount of teamwork that was required for the project.

“Difficult and complex challenges almost never get solved by an individual,” Johnson said. “They are by their nature and definition challenges of colleagues and people partnering together. For me, that is really at the heart of this success story.”

The County Commission recently approved the construction of the facility when it authorized a $10.4 million total project cost for it. The county will use debt financing to pay for a majority of the costs, which the commissioners approved on Wednesday.

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

• Oct. 13, 2020 — Douglas County Commission to consider authorizing financial plan for proposed behavioral health crisis center

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

• Oct. 21, 2020 — Douglas County Commission authorizes debt plan for $8.8 million of behavioral health campus costs

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