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Douglas County Board of Commissioners is seeking public input on the potential plans of creating new mental health treatment facility in the county

OMAHA, Nebraska – The Board of Commissioners for Douglas County, which is responsible for mental health services in the county, is interested in receiving feedback from the general public regarding prospective plans for a new mental health treatment center.

“Mental health is an issue, it comes up all the time in our discussions and for those who we provide services to,” says Mary Ann Borgeson, the chair of the county board.

Borgeson claims that the board has been committed to addressing the mental health issue that afflicts the community and that now is the ideal time to take the services provided in the county one step further because $55 million in ARPA funding has been allotted to Douglas County. Borgeson was speaking in reference to the fact that the issue has plagued the community for quite some time.

Because of the funds, the board has been able to conduct yet another in-depth investigation into the mental health services available in the community.

“What do we see in the populations and in the services that we provide, how do we make them better for those that we’re serving?”

Research projects are currently being carried out to investigate whether or not it would be possible to establish a distinct mental health center.

“I don’t know that I want to say separate, as much as I want to say appropriate,” Borgeson says.

At the moment, there are two locations in Douglas County that offer mental health services. The first of these locations is the Douglas County Health Center, which is actually a nursing home.

The building contains a center for mental health care on the fifth floor of the structure.

“The nursing home is actually where people live, that’s their residence, so how can we move that facility somewhere else so again that facility becomes more of their home rather than a service area,” Borgeson says.

The Douglas County Jail is the only other location besides these facilities where mental health services are offered.

“I believe this and the board believes this, that nobody should have to be in jail to get mental health services,” she says.

“None of the jail has been designed to house people with acute mental illness, yet half of the footprint of the most recent addition of the jail is all housing people with serious mental illness,” said Michael Myers at the August 2 Board of Commissioners meeting while discussing the topic.

Borgeson was instrumental in bringing the “Stepping Up” project to Douglas County in the year 2015. Its primary objective is to lessen the number of inmates afflicted with mental disorders already present in the system. She claims that the potential to establish some kind of center to assist in finding a solution to this issue is one that they cannot let pass by.

“Folks who are in the jail, sometimes what brought them there was their mental illness through some act,” she says. “I’m not saying they should not have to answer for whatever crime it was that they committed, but in a lot a lot of cases, their mental health wasn’t addressed and so that’s what happened.”

Borgeson and a news release issued by the board both state that the first phase of a potential proposal to bring a new facility to the county has come to a successful conclusion.

“We were focusing on having staff tell us what are we doing currently and what do you see in the future, where we could collaborate and cooperate way better than we are right now,” she says. “With the goal of removing individuals with mental illness into a facility that’s a mental health facility, for their treatment.”

In the second phase of the project, it will be decided whether the facility will be comprised of one new structure, two new buildings, an addition to the Douglas County Jail, a rehabilitated building, or even no building at all.

The board has decided to hold a total of four town hall meetings in order to present the findings of the research conducted during phase one and to solicit feedback from the community regarding a possible facility.

Borgeson expresses her delight at the fact that measures are being taken to further address the requirement for services in the community, and she expresses optimism that the entire plan will be successful.

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