This appeared in the Idaho Press-Tribune:
It’s good to see local officials of every stripe coming together in support of a mental health crisis center in Canyon County.
As reported in the Idaho Press-Tribune, a group of about two dozen local officials — including state legislators, county elected officials and local law enforcement — met to get on the same page about getting the state’s next mental health crisis center located in Canyon County.
The state of Idaho has approved funding for four such centers across the state, with the first three in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Coeur d’Alene and a fourth coming soon to Boise.
The governor has set a goal of opening one mental health crisis center in each of the seven districts in the state. Officials in each of the three remaining districts have expressed a desire to have a center in their district.
The need for a center in Canyon County is expressed perhaps no better than through the fact that Canyon County commissioners had to reopen the county budget recently to add $800,000 to the county’s indigent fund to address the rising costs of involuntary mental holds.
The idea is that a behavioral health crisis center would help alleviate at least some of that cost by diverting those with mental health, behavioral and substance abuse problems away from the criminal justice system.
According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, behavioral health crisis centers are designed to help people experiencing a mental health crisis or crisis from substance abuse. They are open 24 hours a day, year-round.
A person treated at the center can stay for up to 23 hours and 59 minutes, meaning people can’t stay more than one day at a time, but they can come back the next day.
People are voluntarily admitted to crisis centers, and the centers can keep them from going to jail or the emergency department while getting the help they need.
Crisis centers should have one bed per 10,000 residents in the community they serve.
Although an important consideration, money is not the only benefit or reason to bring a crisis center here.
Not only is the criminal justice system arguably a more expensive way to treat this problem, it’s also more dangerous — not only for the person facing mental health issues but for the police officers who respond to situations involving these folks.
The last thing we want to see in Canyon County is a deadly encounter involving a police officer.
So we applaud our local officials for getting together and talking.
But talk is cheap.
While the state has agreed to fund these centers at $1.5 million for the first two years of operation, state Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, said he thinks it would help our chances if we had some skin in the game.
We support the Canyon County commissioners and local officials in Nampa and Caldwell to commit at least some funding in the coming fiscal year to a mental health crisis center with the goal of bringing the next center in Idaho to Canyon County.
We think a reasonable amount of $250,000 would show the state that local officials are serious about the prospect and are committed to making it a success here.
We believe the upfront cost will more than pay for itself in the long run.