FORT SMITH (KFSM) — Sebastian, Washington, Craighead and Pulaski counties will soon be home to Crisis Stabilization Units.
Each of the counties applied for funding to open the centers, according to a statement from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office.
The counties will receive $1.6 million in state funding to operate the 16 bed facilities.
The Crisis Stabilization Units will help police agencies across the state provide mental health treatment to those who suffer from a behavioral health condition. The centers are short term facilities that can assess and treat people who would otherwise be arrested .
“The original plan was to select three counties, but we received four stellar applications, and so I decided to award funding to all four,” Hutchinson said. “Each of the four counties’ submissions went above and beyond the parameters laid out in the application process, with substantial support from local leadership and the community.”
According to a release from the governor’s office, the governor has committed an additional $1.4 million from the state’s rainy day fund to support the operation of these centers. The release stated the $1.4 million is in addition to the $5 million already committed to the project. The additional money from the fund will still have to go before the Arkansas Legislative Council for the final approval.
The Crisis Stabilization Units are meant to reduce the number of people with a mental illness from entering jail. Experts and advocates for these centers said many times a person who suffers from a mental illness is taken to jail or the emergency room, where they are not often equipped to address their underlying behavioral issues.
The centers are designed to reduce the strain and financial cost it can put on a county’s jail system.
Currently, law enforcement agencies across Arkansas have no other choice that to put a person suffering from a mental illness behind bars when there is a criminal disturbance from that person. Once the centers are built and operational, that person would be transported to a center where they can receive the help they need.
Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck has been a long time advocate for bringing a center to Sebastian County and has traveled to Little Rock many times to speak before the governor and legislators.
“There may not be a need for hospitalization. They just need a period of stabilization, some time to be assessed and have some treatment without going to jail,” Hollenbeck said. They can stay there anywhere from 23 hours, possibly up to two weeks. It helps them to get back on their medication, back into society, go back to heir jobs, pay their taxes, become a good healthy parent, sons or daughters rather than getting locked up in the criminal justice system.”