TWIN FALLS — Frank Knight had a lot of people to thank on Thursday.
There was the staff at ProActive Advantage, which Knight runs and which has the contract to operate the Crisis Center of South Central Idaho. There were all the other vendors who helped to get the crisis center open.
“These people were unreal,” he said.
He told the crowd about a woman who had stayed at the crisis center. “You saved my life,” she said to Knight. Her husband then shook Knight’s hand and agreed, “You did.”
“This is what it’s all about, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Knight said, his voice quivering with emotion.
The crisis center, located in a former medical office building on Shoup Avenue West, opened for business in late November and has so far helped 23 people who needed mental health help. Thursday was the grand opening, and the room where the ribbon-cutting was held was packed with people who had somehow been involved in the center’s creation, including Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, ProActive and South Central Public Health District staff and many of the local legislators who played a role in creating and funding the center.
The crisis center in Twin Falls is the third in the state, the others being in Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene. They are funded by the state now, but the intent is for them to transition to other funding sources after a couple of years. They are designed to provide a place to stay and some help, for up to 24 hours, for people going through a mental health or addiction-related crisis.
“We appreciated the partnerships that have brought this behavioral health community crisis center to fruition,” Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar said.
Barigar said many of the people who use the crisis center had previously been dealt with through “incarceration and hospitalization ... because more appropriate levels of care just haven’t been available.”
John Hathaway, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare regional administrator for the eastern half of the state, said dealing with a mental-health issue “is like trying to drive a car when you’re looking at the rear-view mirror.” He said one in five people will, during their lives, suffer from a mental-health issue that could benefit from treatment.
“That means that 20 percent of the people in here are spending a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror,” he said.
Otter spoke last. The state’s crisis centers, he said, help people, and by extension, those people’s families, the communities where they live and the entire state. The crisis center “says to us we’re a people that care, we have heart,” Otter said.
“When they cross that threshold, they need to know ... there’s a loving heart, there’s a helping hand, just on the other side of it,” he said.
Otter briefly went over the history of crisis centers in the state, and took a swipe at lawmakers who have voted against funding them.
“I (remember) the occasion when I was in Coeur d’Alene when all those ‘No’ votes showed up,” Otter said.
The Coeur d’Alene Press reported in 2014 that Coeur d’Alene had originally been identified as the place in the state with the greatest need for a crisis center, but that the first one was put in Idaho Falls because Kootenai County’s legislative delegation was split, with some voting against the funding bill.
Otter defending funding crisis centers as “the most conservative vote you could ever make in the State of Idaho,” since treating people’s mental health and addiction issues can help to keep families together.
After the ribbon-cutting, Knight gave a tour to Otter and a few state and local officials, including Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, both of whom were involved in the center’s creation. Bell is co-chairwoman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which approved the money, while Heider is chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and helped with the project.
As the group walked through the halls and looked into the single-bed bedrooms where the people who come to the crisis center stay, Bell remarked it looked better than a jail cell.
“We’ve done too many years of that kind of thing,” she said.