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Washington County Receiving Center will be short-term care for mental health - alternative to jail

Washington County officials, the Utah Legislature, and Governor Spencer Cox continue to support law enforcement, families, and individuals. To that end, they are holding a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, March 18th from 12:15 to 12:45 pm at 5500 W. (Regional Park Road) in Hurricane, Utah (Google Maps) for a Receiving Center that will bridge current gaps in responding to the mental health and substance abuse crises.

Law enforcement officers face unique challenges when responding to incidents involving individuals suffering from drug addiction and mental or emotional instability. Many families and individuals in our community have similarly been confronted with these types of emergencies, sometimes with devastating outcomes. The Utah Legislature began funding receiving centers a couple of years ago, and Washington County officials have been eager to have a Receiving Center in our area. A generous $50,000 donation from Intermountain Health Care helped make obtaining one possible.

The Washington County Receiving Center will be a short-term, crisis-care facility for individuals dealing with mental health or substance abuse crises. When appropriate, law enforcement officers will take people to the center instead of jail or the St. George Regional Hospital. Additionally, the Receiving Center will provide walk-in services for individuals or families in crisis.

“So many of our families find themselves dealing with mental health or addiction issues at some point in time,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said. “This Receiving Center will be a valuable resource for families and individuals in crisis. It will also strengthen our law enforcement’s ability to respond to difficult situations with increased effectiveness and bring hope to neighbors and friends who find themselves in hopeless situations.”

The Receiving Center will be centrally located in the county, just off SR-9 near Legacy Park. It will be a short-term, stabilizing facility designed to respond to emergency situations. Professional staff from the Southwest Behavioral Health Center will be on hand to monitor individuals and to help develop plans so that after the immediate crisis is over, individuals will be connected with other community resources that provide a long-term solution.

“This center will be a safe place to stabilize people in immediate need, while long-term, personalized solutions are found,” Commissioner Iverson emphasized. “Washington County is proud to be building this center with our city, state, law enforcement, and mental health partners. We appreciate their support and collaboration as we all seek to find answers to these very complex problems.”

The Washington County Commissioners will join with Governor Spencer Cox, members of the Utah State Senate and House of Representatives, County Sheriff Nate Brooksby, County Attorney Eric Clarke, representatives from Southwest Behavioral Health Center and Intermountain Healthcare, as well as other key stakeholders for the groundbreaking. Members of the public are also invited to attend.

New Washington County facility to offer shelter, aid for mental health, substance abuse By Sean Hemmersmeier, St. George Spectrum & Daily News The Spectrum 2022-03-19 Dozens of people gathered near the Washington County fairgrounds on Friday to break ground on a new receiving center that could help both local law enforcement and medical centers, according to state officials. Among those that gathered at the event were the Washington County commissioners, several state lawmakers and police departments as well as Gov. Spencer Cox. The governor touted the new facility as important for southern Utah since this part of the state’s population is growing quickly and additional resources are needed to support that growth. “It's a big deal to have these anywhere," Cox said. "To get it in southern Utah will make a huge difference in helping to keep people out of jail and keeping people out of our hospitals and getting them to care that they need." Washington County Sheriff Nate Brooksby said the facility is definitely a “needs-driven” one since if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis or a substance abuse issue in southwest Utah there would only be two options for them: either go to jail or go to the hospital, according to Brooksby. He said this facility should take on a very important role in the community that was previously placed on the sheriff’s department. “As a default, for years, the county jail has had to learn to deal with mental health consumers and those that might be detoxing,” Brooksby said. Cox agreed with Brooksby’s assessment that the facility is a “missing piece” among government facilities and that without receiving centers like this law enforcement officers have had to fill the gaps of the state’s mental health care system. “We've been asking our law enforcement officers to do things that is not their responsibility,” Cox said. “It's not fair to their families, and it's not the best thing for our society, and that's why this is so important.” The receiving center should be open around the clock to assist people and families going through a crisis, whether it be one relating to mental health, substance abuse or domestic circumstances. It will allow people facing those hard situations with a short-term place to stay where they can easily connect with professionals who can help, Cox said. Cox said he hopes that adding more centers like this and supporting other new initiatives in the state could address the growing challenges of providing mental health care to residents in need. He says that would include things like Utah’s mobile crisis teams, which send out mental health professionals instead of law enforcement officers to certain calls for service. The groundbreaking event was one of several events Cox attended in southern Utah on Friday. Earlier, he visited a pharmacy in Hurricane to highlight the work being done by local health care workers over the past two years. The governor said that centers like these, which aren’t for people that commit serious crimes, can help reduce recidivism rates in the state by keeping people out of jail in the first place and help reduce suicide rates by connecting people struggling with those thoughts the care they need in a much more urgent way. “Suicide is often a decision that is made very quickly,” he said. “And it can be worse if you end up in jail because of your mental health problems. Right, that just adds to the burden.” Getting this facility to its development phase happened quickly. County Commissioner Gil Almquist said the county has only been doing work on this project for the past year-and-a-half, but the project is moving quickly because of the community's need for it. Almquist said that the design of the building is a critical aspect of its function. If a receiving center is built to look like a jail, people don’t want to be there, but if it’s designed in a more pleasing way, it will make it less daunting for residents. One area of concern was staffing. According to a report from USA Facts, a majority of Utah’s population — 83.3% — lives in areas with shortages in mental health coverage. Cox said facilities like this help address that problem but acknowledged that it can be hard to find enough professionals to keep it fully staffed. “We are always worried about staffing concerns,” he said. “We're worried about staffing concerns in every industry, but certainly on the mental health side.” The receiving center should finish construction in eight months, according to Brooksby.

Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah. Follow on Twitter @seanhemmers34. Our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here: / 0


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