Idaho Falls hopes to land $1.5 million crisis center

Idaho Falls is one of three cities seeking a $1.5 million state-funded behavioral health community crisis center.

Boise and Coeur d’Alene also are under consideration for the facility.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said a decision on the center’s location should be made within the next week. A committee of behavioral health, financial and research professionals will review the three proposals to determine which city is best equipped for the center, she said.

The center would be used as a model for other future centers around the state.

“We are treating this as a pilot,” Forbing-Orr said. “The data that the crisis center generates will help us convince the Legislature to grant more funding for more centers.”

“The decision will be based on local support, community need and how well organized each community is so that they can get going as soon as possible,” Forbing-Orr said.

Bonneville County Sheriff’s Capt. Sam Hulse said the center would be a medically equipped facility where officers can drop off people experiencing a mental health crisis. The center would keep those people for up to 24 hours, making sure they’re safe and allowing medical professionals to determine the best treatment.

Idaho Falls is the best candidate for the center, Hulse said, because of the regional support and the good working relationship between law enforcement and health agencies.

“When you look at the region’s history, you can see that law enforcement, court officials and mental health providers work together to break down the silos between people that provide care and people who protect the community,” Hulse said. “By using new concepts and ideas to make the center work, we can show the value that it would have to other communities.”

An Idaho Falls community crisis center would serve Health and Welfare’s Region 7, which includes Bonneville, Bingham, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton counties.

According to Idaho Falls’ crisis center request, in 2013, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Falls Police Department and Idaho Falls Fire Department spent a combined $165,178 in personnel costs responding to emergencies related to mental health and substance abuse issues.

The cost is so high, Hulse said, because of the way law enforcement must handle mental health crises.

“If a person is a threat to themselves or society, the only two options we have are taking the person to an emergency room or to jail,” Hulse said.

Locating the crisis center In Idaho Falls would save taxpayer money, Hulse said, by reducing the number of reoccurring mental health crises and not having to increase staff during a shift.

“We would be assessing them on the front end, trying to determine what is really causing the issues in this person’s life and how we can do a better job of addressing those issues as a community,” Hulse said.