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 the Behavioral Health Center.
- The Behavioral Health Center is projected to be fully up and running in the fall of 2021.
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