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Board of Supervisors start on mental health center project

Plans for the Johnson County Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center have begun.

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Board of Supervisors start on mental health center project

Johnson County supervisors listen to public comment on Oct. 9, 2017.

Johnson County supervisors listen to public comment on Oct. 9, 2017.

File photo

Johnson County supervisors listen to public comment on Oct. 9, 2017.

File photo

File photo

Johnson County supervisors listen to public comment on Oct. 9, 2017.

Maria Kuiper, News Reporter

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The Johnson County Board of Supervisors’ plans for the future Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center are now underway, and officials hope that groundbreaking will happen within the next year.

The agreement to build the center occurred last month. The land purchased at 270 Southgate Ave. spans 5.34 acres, and the project will cost $1.35 million.

Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass, a member of the plan’s steering committee, said the space will be used for numerous purposes.

“It is not going to be a housing facility,” Green-Douglass said. “However, it will be for short-term purposes, such as crisis observation, crisis stabilization, detox, and a sobering unit.”

Along with the four main units, the facility will co-locate a homeless shelter and employ a mobile crisis-outreach team.

Currently, the plan is still in the 90-day waiting period after the supervisors signed an agreement for purchase. Green-Douglass said that so far, engineering and architectural construction plans are going well.

The supervisors bought land for the mental-health center because of a need for a legitimate place for people to go, rather than sitting in jail or the emergency room of a hospital.

The supervisors have issued a document stating that 7 to 10 percent of law-enforcement calls pertain to behavioral-health issues.

Over a five-year span, the cost to provide four individuals in Johnson County with behavioral-health services was $2.16 million, the document said. Two of these individuals died, and the other two are now homeless and still have problems with substance abuse and mental health.

Currently, the Iowa City police are trained in responding to crises, but they have limited options on where to put people who call for assistance. This facility would help not only the police, the supervisors said, but also Shelter House, Prelude Behavioral Services, Johnson County Crisis Center, East Central Region, and Mobile Crisis Outreach.

All of these services are funded by Johnson County.

When the plan was ratified, main opposition to the idea centered on its location, which is in the floodplain.

However, Supervisor Rod Sullivan believes the location is the best fit.

“There are many positives to this location,” he said. “Law enforcement loves it, service providers are next door, and it has easy access for almost everyone.”

Sullivan supported his statement by saying the building will be built with flood protection, such as concrete floors, air conditioning on the roof, and raised outlets.

Project manager Matt Miller also likes the Southgate Avenue area for the site.

“We are remedying the location so that it will not be in the floodplain,” Miller said. “We will be using fill dirt to make the building higher than the flood level.”

Sullivan noted that the positives outweigh the negatives of building the facility in this location, especially because the need for a mental-health center exists.

“We are already without such a facility,” he said. “If we had to close it for two weeks every 30 years, we still have it for the rest of the time. We can and must do better.”

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