NW Arkansas, Though Funded, Still Lacks Care for Mentally ill

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) _ After almost two years, officials in
Northwest Arkansas say they have the funding, but none of the beds
needed to care for the region's mentally ill.

Legislators teamed up to provide just more than a half a million
dollars to fund establishing a psychiatric unit there. But so far,
no hospital has been willing to take on the sole responsibility of
caring for the mentally ill, many of whom who would arrive directly
after time in a county jail.

Now, the region's lawmakers are heading into another legislative
session in January with the mentally ill still ending up in the
county jails.

David L- Williams, chief executive officer at Ozark Guidance
Center, has been trying to find a place for in-patient psychiatric
beds since 2002, when Northwest Medical Center closed its
psychiatric unit.

The problems continued last summer after U-S District Judge G-
Thomas Eisele warned legislators that they should promptly address
issues with the system after the death of 60-year-old Donald Winter
of Bella Vista. Winter died of an infection related to the stress
of being housed for four days at the Benton County jail, while
waiting for a bed to open up at the State Hospital.