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TWIN FALLS • The Region 5 Behavioral Health Board and a slew of local stakeholders — cities, counties, medical providers and police — have met for about six months to ready a pitch for opening a crisis center in Twin Falls.

On Wednesday, the Legislature’s budget-writing committee earmarked the money to open a center here and in Boise. Now, the Magic Valley group must formalize its plan and begin the serious work for setting up the center, including finding a location and developing ongoing funding.

“We’re really excited what they did today to fund both of them,” Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said.

First, though, the group is waiting for more information about the budget committee’s funding package, including the $1.013 million in ongoing funding and another $200,000 in one-time funding if the budget is passed by the full Legislature.

Local planners include representatives of the city, medical groups, law enforcement, and Twin Falls, Gooding and Blaine counties.

“This was a team effort,” South Central Public Health District Director Rene LeBlanc said.

The proposed name for a crisis center, if it came to Twin Falls, would include “Behavioral Health Quick Care,” so as not to confuse it with other centers, LeBlanc said.

The center would be open to those 18 and older who are medically stable but require de-escalation, stabilization and referral for longer-term mental health or drug and alcohol problems. The patients may stay at the center for up to 23 hours and 59 minutes, he said.

Essentially, the center would give people a place to go other than a hospital or jail when they’re struggling with mental health or drug problems.

Deputy City Manager Brian Pike estimated there would be savings to the city in law enforcement officers’ time, and at the emergency room. He said 75 percent of people placed in protective custody have resolved their crisis within 24 hours.

“We’re committed to being a partner and finding a solution that works for our community,” Pike said.

Twin Falls County Commissioner George Urie has been a member of the local planning committee. The county will also be on the list of community supporters, and may be able to help with procurement of properties, he said.

The county isn’t sure how much money the crisis center could save, although it’s expected to cut down on jail expenses. And, Urie said, “It could possibly save us money on the indigent program.”

The county fund provides assistance to patients without insurance or ability to pay for medical treatment.

Shanahan, the Health and Welfare spokesman, said the group has been enthusiastic during planning.

While about a third of the original $1.7 million proposed to go to a Region 5 center is planned for one in Boise, Shanahan said there is more than enough to get the crisis centers launched and beginning operation.

Organizers plan for the South Central Health District to be the administrative and financial agent. The Region 5 Behavioral Health Board would be the lead agent.

Funded crisis centers have already been established in Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls. The intent is for crisis centers to become self-sustaining.

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“Within two years of operation, each crisis center develops a plan for the community to fund 50 percent of its operating costs,” Shanahan said.

The group will look strongly to community partners to help contribute to those costs down the road, he said.

Carmen Babb, founder and president of nonprofit 9C’s Incorporated, has also expressed interest in heading up the crisis center but said she’d be in competition with the health board. Babb approached the City Council for support Monday. No action was taken.

Babb also owns and operates Psychiatric Services Behavioral Health Clinic and Twin Falls Healthcare. The business has a lab for testing drug and alcohol levels and provides treatment on an outpatient basis.

Babb founded 9C’s Inc. last year to raise funds for clinicians at her business treating those unable to pay for care.

A crisis center, she said, could be done easily from her business.

“If we’re doing it in-house, it’s a fit,” Babb said.

Babb has interest in moving to a larger building if she could get the money to buy it.

LeBlanc said the Department of Health and Welfare would contract the administrative and fiduciary support for the crisis center. It’s assumed the contract would be completed with the South Central Public Health District, he said. Generally speaking, he said, it would be ideal to sub-contract the work out.

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