BOISE • The Legislature’s budget-writing committee approved funding on Wednesday for emergency mental health centers in Twin Falls and Boise.
The move is an important first step to bring a center to the Magic Valley, where leaders say a crisis center is badly needed to relieve pressure on emergency rooms and reduce the number of mentally ill people who end up in jail. The centers provide a temporary place for people with mental health or drug problems to go for a day and be connected with longer-term services.
“I’m a vast champion for what these crisis centers do,” said Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, who made the motion to fund both.
The proposal, which the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved by a 16-2 vote, would give $1.013 million in ongoing funding to a crisis center in Public Health District 5, home to Twin Falls where the center would likely go — and $506,700 to District 4, likely for a crisis center in Boise.
It would also give $200,000 in one-time funding to the Twin Falls center, and $515,000 to the one in Boise. This money is being taken from the $715,000 the state had left over from funding a crisis center in Coeur d’Alene, which opened later than expected.
The money would fund eight months of operations in Twin Falls and six-and-a-half months in Boise, with lawmakers to then expect appropriating more for both in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
A substitute motion to only fund a crisis center in Twin Falls and put off funding one in Boise failed 8-10.
Idaho has already funded two crisis centers, one in Idaho Falls and one in Coeur d’Alene.
The state’s goal is to reduce state funding for the crisis centers over the course of a couple of years, switch to local funding and reinvest the money in helping crisis centers open in different parts of the state. JFAC also signed off on language requiring the Idaho Falls crisis center to share its two-year plan with lawmakers by the end of the year demonstrating the extent of local funding it has obtained, and requiring future crisis centers to do the same after two years of operations.
The Region 5 Behavioral Health Board is spearheading the application with a number of partners, including the city of Twin Falls. Brian Pike, Twin Falls’ deputy city manager for public safety, said the application is a regional effort.
Assuming the full Legislature approves the funding, the governor signs it into law and the Magic Valley application is approved, center organizers will still need to find long-term funding.
“I think it would be a grave mistake for all of us to move forward and offer our community a resource that is not sustainable,” Pike said.
The center would likely be in Twin Falls, but a specific site has not been identified.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter asked in his original budget request for $1.7 million for a crisis center in southwestern Idaho, without specifying where. JFAC Co-Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said before the session started that funding a crisis center in the Magic Valley was one of her major goals for the year.