Idaho Falls chosen for first mental health crisis center

The state’s first regional mental health crisis center will be located in Idaho Falls.

Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter made the announcement at a Thursday morning news conference at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport. The city was competing with Boise and Coeur d’Alene for the $2.1 million facility. It will be funded with $600,000 in one-time federal money and about $1.5 million in state general funds.

Ross Edmunds, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare behavioral health administrator, said he hopes the new center will be functioning in the next 60 days.

The decision to place the center in Idaho Falls came down to community and legislative support, Otter said.

“We were looking at the kind of community partnerships needed for this maiden voyage to be as successful as it possible,” the governor said. “We then took a step further and looked where we have tried things before and been the most successful. I went back to the drug courts, and other things that we’ve started here in Idaho Falls that were used as a great example to bring those successes to other communities.”

According to a Health and Welfare news release, the crisis center is a “place to go voluntarily … where people in crisis will be able to access the services they need, get stabilized and leave with a treatment plan.”

Bonneville County Sheriff’s Capt. Sam Hulse said the new center gives law enforcement officers another option when responding to such emergencies.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Hulse said, “and hopefully, it will mean we can respond to these situations in a way that doesn’t end in the sufferer winding up in jail or in an emergency room.”

Once at the center, an individual can remain there for up to 24 hours, allowing medical professionals enough time to make sure they are not a threat to themselves or others, as well as determine a course of treatment.

A committee organizing the new center already is scouting for a location, as well as working on short-term and long-term goals for the facility.

That committee, led by Hulse, includes law enforcement officers, mental health advocates and representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

State Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, hopes the center proves successful and inspires government leaders to establish more centers around the state.

“We are ready to show the state how this can be done,” Trujillo said. “This is a very good use of government. I’m excited for our community to show our state how to better use funds … this is going to be a fantastic move in the right direction.”