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JPs to discuss crisis unit Monday

The Jonesboro Sun - 6/24/2018

JONESBORO Craighead County Quorum Court members will discuss plans for the county's crisis stabilization unit with a liaison from the governor's office Monday.

Justices of the peace meet at 5:30 p.m. in County Judge Ed Hill's office in the courthouse annex.

Kathryn Griffin, liaison for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, will give an update on units in the state and how they're needed.

Crisis stabilization units are designed to keep those with mental health conditions, who have not committed crimes, in treatment and out of jail. Local law enforcement officials have been left with few options to help those with mental health issues since Mid-South Health closed its facility for mental health issues more than 10 years ago, meaning that when police encounter an individual with mental health issues, they may have to take them into custody for a screening.

The county was one of four in the state that received a $1.6 million grant last year from the governor's office to operate a unit, which would include 16 beds and be staffed 24/7.

Units in Pulaski and Sebastian Counties are open. Washington County plans to open its unit this fall.

Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said he's considered two locations for the unit, but both proved to have strong opposition from potential neighbors. The county had looked to place the unit in existing structures, which would have been less expensive than building a new structure.

The first, an October 2016 plan to place the center at a former nursing home complex on North Church Street, was opposed by neighbors, including Jonesboro School Superintendent Dr. Kim Wilbanks. The school operates a campus nearby, she said, and the center would pose a security risk to the school.

In December 2017, Boyd met with representatives from businesses on Browns Lane in regards to a using a building nearby, which formerly housed a restaurant. Those business owners were against the plan, citing safety concerns and the effect it may have on property values. The street is home to several medical treatment facilities and insurance offices.

Boyd has repeatedly stressed that the center does not pose a safety threat. However, due to the opposition, the sheriff told the quorum court last month the county may need to consider building the unit on the grounds of the county's detention center. Funds offered by the governor's office cannot be used for leases or construction, meaning that cost could fall to the county.

"The judge and I have talked about what we're going to do," Boyd told the JPs. "Because of the opposition we've been met with, we feel that going back to the idea of building on the existing property we have is going to be the way we know we're not going to get opposition."

At their previous meeting, JPs covered several topics, including Judge-elect Marvin Day, who will take a job as Hill's assistant before taking over the office in January. Other topics covered include a proposal for a human resources position, state and federal grants and the county's phone system.

 
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