Douglas County leaders unveil next phase of mental health care

Thursday night’s public town hall presentation was the first of four.
Douglas County's supervisors are seeking solutions to the growing mental health crisis.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County’s supervisors are seeking solutions to the growing mental health crisis.

Thursday at Metro Community College’s Fort Street Campus, board chair Mary Ann Borgeson led a panel describing the second of three scheduled phases in a mental health facility study. It was the first of four scheduled public town hall presentations.

The first phase already determined that Douglas County’s public mental health facilities in the county jail and community mental health center, aren’t enough. Neither is properly equipped to handle growing mental health demands.

In the phase two presentation, much of the discussion centered around whether two newly revamped facilities to replace the current ones should be considered. The other option would be to build a new, combined facility, keeping patients apart at all times but providing overlap in service areas where possible.

“For our citizens, are we ever doing enough? That’s very challenging, we can never do enough,” Douglas County Community Mental Health Center clinical director Sherry Driver said. “I think what we can do is do the best under the circumstances we have.”

Those circumstances are currently maximized by a systemic camaraderie between corrections and the mental health center, where they often interact with the same people during their struggles.

“The next best thing we can do, is deliver those services in a way that starts stabilizing and getting them on the right path before they’re released,” Douglas County director of corrections Michael Myers said. “And pass the baton in a very seamless way to people who continue to help those folks be successful once they’re released.”

Phase three would settle on design details if the board continues to move forward. The directors of the two current facilities say they aren’t yet convinced which plan, to combine or not combine, would be best long term, so they continue to soak up all they can in the public sessions. Their goals in service are also very much aligned.

”That’s what’s really exciting about these town hall meetings, is we get to hear what the community is stating what is needed,” she said. “And at the end of the day, that’s really what’s most important for us, what do the Douglas County citizens need.”

“We won’t resolve our communities mental health crisis, regardless what form this plan ultimately takes, but we can make it a better one,” he said. “It will matter to someone, it will matter to dozens and hundreds and over the years thousands of people. Will there be others that are still suffering, of course, there will be. That’s unfortunate and that’s why you have to keep striving.”

They hope to make the decision by the end of this calendar year as to which direction they’d like to take, then phase three, if development is authorized, would strive to complete design, construction, and occupancy plans for final approvals, estimated between 2023 and 2026.