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Sarpy County takes $1M step toward mental health center

February 16, 2019

PAPILLION, Neb. (AP) — Sarpy County commissioners have taken a $1 million step toward building a mental health crisis center.

The Board of Commissioners has approved spending $1.05 million on a nearly 7-acre (2.8-hectare) parcel on the south end of Bellevue, near Offutt Air Force Base.

“This is the first step, but an important step, toward improving mental health care in Sarpy County,” said Board of Commissioners chairman Don Kelly at the board meeting Tuesday.

The center would serve as a short-term emergency facility where people would go voluntarily for mental health and substance abuse assessments. It also would provide law enforcement officers with a place to take people who don’t belong in jail or a traditional hospital.

County leaders said the absence of a dedicated mental health facility has taxed the jail in nearby Papillion and area emergency rooms.

“The de facto mental health centers are now your jails, correctional centers and your emergency rooms in Nebraska, and that’s just not acceptable,” Kelly told the Omaha World-Herald. “These people that are having psychiatric crises, they need help. They don’t need to be stuck in a jail or an emergency room.”

A preliminary report suggests the center would be available for use by all Sarpy County law enforcement agencies, as well as Cass, Dodge, Douglas and Washington counties. Sarpy County administrator Dan Joins said he expects the center would be operated by a public-private partnership.

It’s estimated the center would cost between $10 million and $13 million, with yearly operating costs of between $2 million and $2.5 million.

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