In 2019, Justice Matters won the creation of the Douglas County Behavioral Health Crisis Center, which will be up and running by fall 2021. It is projected to reduce the $8.5 million in emergency room losses for behavioral health patients, and divert 200 individuals with mental illness away from incarceration each year. Here’s how we did it:
- In our listening process in 2014, we were shocked to hear the same story again and again regardless of geography, income, race, or gender: people suffering from mental illness could not find adequate treatment in Lawrence.
- During our research process, the team learned of a Restoration Center in San Antonio, Texas, where people experiencing mental health crises could walk in or be taken in by law enforcement for a suite of treatment services. Justice Matters organized a group of nearly 20 stakeholders from the community to see the restoration center in action, including the mayor, chief of police, and hospital executives.
- In 2017, we won a commitment by the Lawrence Police Chief to train all officers on how to effectively handle those in a mental health crisis. This training will help divert people experiencing a mental health crisis toward treatment and away from incarceration.
- In mid-2018, we were successful in getting a measure on the ballot that would permanently dedicate a quarter of a penny in sales tax to mental health services.
- In fall of 2018, our community overwhelmingly supported the measure, with 71% of voters in favor. The sales tax is estimated to raise around $4.9 million per year for our mental health crisis center.
- Our Mental Health Committee sprang back into action when we learned in late 2022, several months after attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the crisis center, that it was not yet ready to open. We held in-depth discussions of the obstacles and progress towards opening with county staff and commissioners, attended and spoke at many commission meetings, and pushed for ongoing transparency with the public throughout the process.
- The Douglas County Treatment & Recovery Center will be fully open and operational by the end of 2023. We are celebrating that the TRC has maintained local control and will be held to the highest standards of care for our community's most vulnerable populations.