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Sheriff to discuss mental health unit

The Jonesboro Sun - 11/26/2017

JONESBORO - The Craighead County Sheriff's Office is still looking for a location for a proposed mental health crisis unit, and Sheriff Marty Boyd is hoping to take the issue up with the quorum court on Monday.

The county was awarded a $1.6 million state grant to start up a 16-bed, 24/7 mental health facility and had originally planned to share a building with Homeless Ministries of Jonesboro at the former site of Ridgecrest Health Care's nursing home building. Both the sheriff's office and the ministry liked the idea, but it was scrapped after school district officials voiced opposition to the location due to the building's proximity to a school campus.

Boyd said Tuesday his office is still working to make the facility happen. Officials have yet to settle on a location but are hoping to lease an existing building, rather than build a new facility, which would take time and additional funding, Boyd said.

"We do anticipate to address the full court on this Monday night," Boyd said.

The sheriff and other local officials have in the past discussed the growing need for facilities as a means to keep those with mental health conditions in treatment and out of jail. He said local law enforcement has been left with few options since Mid-South Health closed its facility for mental health issues more than 10 years ago.

"Since then, law enforcement here in Northeast Arkansas, anytime we come in contact with someone who is having a behavioral or mental health crisis, they are placed into custody for a screening," Boyd told The Sun previously. "Mid-South Health would come out and screen and if they found they needed in-patient, they would issue an order to take the person for hospitalization." The closest facility local officers have access to now is in Little Rock.

County Judge Ed Hill has also voiced his support for a facility in June, and the Quorum Court unanimously passed a resolution declaring support for the facility later that month.

"The police and sheriff really don't have an option right now with these people," Hill told The Sun. "It has kind of got to where the jail is the mental evaluator. And it's not their business. Their business is to arrest crooks."

Though the grant was set to expire in November, Boyd said the governor's office hasn't set a time limit for the grant, and he noted that the three other counties selected to host mental health crisis units are also having trouble finding facilities.

J.R. Davis, communications director for the governor's office, said the office was aware the counties were having trouble finding facilities and was committed to helping the counties establish the units.

"Once they've established where they'll put it the grant will still go to them," Davis said. "This has been one of the governor's priorities."


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