Public meeting held on Crisis Stabilization Unit

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Region 8 business owners raised concerns on Thursday about the Crisis Stabilization Unit being near them.

A public meeting took place at Mid-South Health Systems with Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd and Executive Director of Mid-South Health Services, Ruth Allison Dover.

"We're having a community meeting tonight," Boyd said. "To get some information out about the Crisis Stabilization Unit. We know in the past, and probably in the present, there's a lot of misinformation out there. We just want to make sure the residents and citizens who want to hear about it have the chance to get the right information and what the purpose of the Crisis Stabilization Unit is."

Right now, a location on Browns Lane is being looked at as a possible site for the unit.

"It's not a residential area," Boyd said. "It's all commercial property. That's the building we have right now that could be available."

Business owners and community members attended the meeting.

Business owner Michelle Abernathy said her concern was about safety.

"My biggest concern is the security of our people," Abernathy said. "We're all small businesses here so our employees are like family and it's not the perfect scenarios everything is going to go fine and the people are going to cooperate and the people who need these services will cooperate. It's the one person who's going to be a threat to us. It's that one time when things don't go right that we cannot protect ourselves against and I don't think the response is going to be fast enough that they can protect us either."

Sheriff Boyd told attendees that those who would receive treatment at the Crisis Stabilization Unit will not have a criminal record.

"The Crisis Stabilization Unit is basically going to be a doctor's office," Boyd said. "They will be staying 24 hours there. That will really be the only difference where someone goes to get treatment. And these are not criminals. They've not ever been charged with a crime. That's the point. If they're charged with a crime, they go to jail. The Crisis Stabilization Unit is a place where we can come in and diagnose that person, get people back on their medication or get them hooked up with the right kind of treatment."

Boyd answered questions and addressed concerns about safety.

"I don't think there are any safety concerns," Boyd said. "For one thing, anyone that's going to be seen by the Crisis Stabilization Unit, they're already here. They're in our community. No one is coming in from another area or a different unit. It's citizens right now that just need help."

Boyd said the facility will contain security.

He also said the purpose of the Crisis Stabilization Unit is to make sure the proper treatment is given to those who need it and that jail is not a solution.

"This is a nationwide problem," Boyd said. "Dealing with mental health issues in our jails. It's just common knowledge right now that instead of someone receiving treatment the only place we have is to incarcerate them right now. Which is morally wrong. It's not helping that person receive treatment and two, like I said, morally why should we criminalize a mental health issue. It's just like someone who has the flu. They need treatment. They don't need to be locked up because they're sick. We see that every day in law enforcement. There's a huge need for it and this is a way we can try to provide that service for people."

"Right now, what is happening," Dover said. "In our system, law enforcement are coming across individuals who have a serious mental illness. And those persons are currently being detained in the jail. They do not need to be detained in the jail because they have not committed a crime. This is not the plan we want for Arkansas. So, the appropriation for Crisis Stabilization Units is specifically designed to alleviate that problem. So that individuals who have a serious mental illness, but come in contact with law enforcement, rather than going to jail can be diverted to a place for treatment. And that would be the role of the Crisis Stabilization Unit."

Those in attendance stated they felt another site should be pursued.

"I'm mostly disappointed," Abernathy said. "It seems they've not investigated all their potential sites in Jonesboro and other options other than putting this in the middle of a small, neighborhood community of businesses."

Dover said Mid-South Health will partner to provide the medical services needed to treat patients.

"Mid-South is a community mental health center," Dover said. "We serve 13 counties in Arkansas with a contract with the state of Arkansas. In this particular project, we would partner with Craighead County to provide the treatment services within the Crisis Stabilization Unit. So, Mid-South Health Systems would hire psychiatrists, nurses, treatment professionals in order to provide the treatment at the unit."

Dover also stated that a Crisis Stabilization Unit is not new to Region 8 or even the Jonesboro area.

"For many years," Dover said. "Craighead County had a Crisis Stabilization Unit and it was located in the services center and was operational there for many years. It provides a very valuable service to the community. We help stabilize the mentally ill, get them stabilized on medication and then connect them to community-based treatment. We do not feel it poses a significant risk to the community or we would not propose it as members of the community ourselves."

The common opinion of those in attendance was support of a Crisis Stabilization Unit and acknowledgment that there is a need in the area for such a facility.

They just want it located somewhere else.

"My hope is that we could find somewhere to service the needs of the people the police determine to be a threat to themselves or others, but outside of criminal charges, that we can find somewhere these people can be given the services they need. But at the same time not be the threat to the community."

"Our goal was to get information to the community," Dover said. "About the purpose and the mission of a Crisis Stabilization. So, to the extent that was helpful. I believe we did that and we answered questions and tried to be as transparent as possible."

"I hope people take away the right information," Boyd said. "I want everyone to know truly what this is going to do.  How it will operate and what kind of positives we'll see in our community because of it."

Boyd said the location on Browns Lane has not been chosen.

This is an area they are looking at, but have not decided on.

He says they've searched a large number of different locations and this is the second site from their search they have pursued, so far.

He also told those in attendance their concerns were important to him and he would pass their concerns along to city leaders at the next meeting.

He further stated his only goal is to protect the community and work to get citizens the help they need.

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