Legislature asked to fund crisis centers for mentally ill

Legislature asked to fund crisis centers for mentally ill

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by Stephanie Zepelin, Associated Press

KTVB.COM

Posted on January 17, 2014 at 11:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 22 at 3:53 PM

BOISE -- In his 2014 State of the State address, Governor Otter first talked about creating three crisis centers for people in Idaho with mental illnesses. The facilities are planned for Boise, Idaho Falls and Coeur d'Alene.

"It'll be staffed 24/7 by nursing staff, masters-level clinical mental health staff, then a group of folks that we call certified peer specialists," said Ross Edmunds, Director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Division of Behavioral Health. "Certified peer specialist is a person that has lived experience, they themselves have mental illness or addiction in their lives but they've found a place of recovery in their lives."

Edmunds told News Channel 7 that $600,000 of the $5.1 million will be one-time funding. The facilities are modeled after the Community Crisis Center in Billings, Montana, which has been open since 2006.

"The facilities themselves are built around what we call a risk-reduction model," he said. "It's not a treatment model. You don't just go there and receive some counseling, you go there and hopefully what occurs is that they're reducing the risk that has caused the crisis in the person's life."

Edmunds believe these centers will take the burden off of law enforcement, and get the people that need it the right kind of help. He said in recent years, the number of people with mental illnesses committed to the state have stayed the same, but number of people being put in a police hold is rising. He believes this reflects a need for more mental health resources in Idaho.

"The only opportunity we have right now, that law enforcement has, to meet these people's needs is jail and emergency rooms, by in large," Edmunds said. "It's very difficult to find an appropriate level of care."

Edmunds said people with a mental illness are no more likely than the rest of the general population to commit a crime or engage in violence. However, he said, when they do not get treatment, they could be more likely to act impulsively.

"We really do need to get folks into treatment because treatment is effective, treatment works, and of course we want to try to prevent any sort of tragedy from happening in the state of Idaho," said Edmunds.

If the legislature agrees to fund the crisis centers, the Department of Health and Welfare will have the money in July. They hope to have the centers open by the end of this year.

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