Regional crisis center proposed in BG

Published 2:15 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

By Michael J. Collins, Bowling Green Daily News

Growth was a recurring theme among city officials at the annual Strategic Goal Planning session Wednesday at Sloan Convention Center.

Attendees representing various departments spoke to a variety of challenges facing the city, including a need for mental health resources and employees to account for a rapidly growing population.

City Commissioner Sue Parrigin presented about potential plans to construct a $20 million regional crisis center in Bowling Green that would focus primarily on individuals experiencing mental health crises.

Parrigin said the facility would better aid struggling patients while taking significant pressure off of first responders, courts and jails often inundated with mental health cases.

“We’re failing in our approach to mental health, addiction and homelessness, I don’t mind saying that out loud,” Parrigin said. “Everybody that’s involved right now can only do their part, but the first line of defense, unless it’s a criminal case and you’re going to be harming yourself or others, needs to be a mental health professional in a safe place.”

The plan calls for over 20 beds in the facility, though Parrigin said more could be added as they navigate the funding process. The group has not yet settled on whether to construct one two-story structure or two adjacent single-story buildings.

Parrigin said she served as “matchmaker” for the mental health group consisting of representatives from state and national offices, regional health professionals, law enforcement agencies, Mayor Todd Alcott and others.

Their goal for the last year has been crafting a solution to mental health concerns that drive up homelessness and addiction and burden a variety of city services.

Parrigin said as the city grows, these issues will become more prevalent.

The group, which also included members of the local state legislative delegation, looked to Nashville-based Mental Health Cooperative for a facility model.

Parrigin explained the Nashville facility model has three levels of care: a 23 hour or less stay, a five-day stay and a 10- to 12-day stay. Patients receive counseling and a case manager who follows up on care and helps individuals access assistance opportunities.

LikeSkills Inc. helped spearhead the group and promised to donate a plot of land next to its Suwannee Trail facility for the facility. Joe Dan Beavers, president and CEO of LifeSkills, said the organization would oversee operations and be well-positioned to sustain the costs if it receives the startup funding.

He added that the facility’s proximity to Fairview Community Clinic could also lead to partnerships that better meet the needs of patients.

“Our goal will be to try to keep people as safe as we can in the community in the least restrictive clinical environment,” Beavers said. “But if we needed to, if they met the criteria and they needed hospitalization, that we could work with our partners through the state and local private hospitals to transfer those individuals and make those referrals.”

Beavers said the goal is individualized care for every patient, a factor he was impressed with when visiting the facility in Nashville.

“When we saw (the facility), the initial reaction was like, ‘this is exactly what we need,’ ” Beavers said. “We need to find how to make the Kentucky version of that happen, whatever it takes.”

He added the model could be easily scaled to serve regions across the state, with each facility catering to numerous adjacent counties.

“To oversimplify this, it would be a single front door, both literally and figuratively, for the crisis system,” Beavers said. “Right now, we know a lot of folks that are in crisis enter the system through police involvement or maybe hospital emergency room or the justice system instead of their treatment.

“We know we have better outcomes, however you want to measure it, if we can get them to access the system available to them at the right entry point.”

The facility is far from guaranteed, however. Beavers said they’ve received support from the Department of Behavioral Health and legislators, but ultimately it’s up to the General Assembly to move the needle forward.

“I’ve been with LifeSkills since 2008. This is the first time I’ve seen this much agreement, whether it’s across the political spectrum, city, county, state, federal level – everyone seems to be on board with it,” Beavers said. “That’s really something that community should be proud of.”

Also Wednesday, commissioners and city officials:

  • Discussed the need for 84 new public safety job positions and 44 non-public safety positions between 2025-29.
  • Voted 3-2 against supporting a CROWN Act, which would add language preventing discrimination based on ethnic or natural hair style, with Commissioners Carlos Bailey and Dana Beasley-Brown voting in support.
  • Supported the concept of constructing a House on the Hill assisted living community.
  • Supported preceding to downzone from multi-family to single-family homes in tornado-impacted areas.