For the second time in as many months the Greenwood City Council voted to approve an ordinance that would set up an interlocal agreement with the county Crisis Stabilization Unit despite lingering questions as to the cost of the program to the city and the city’s ability to get out of the contract once it is signed.
The council voted unanimously to read the ordinance for its second reading with the understanding that Sebastian County Judge, David Hudson, return next month and provide clarification.
In August the council voted the ordinance down 3-3 due to the ordinance being “broad and vague” according to City Attorney, Mike Hamby.
CSUs are short-term clinical facilities that provide assessment and treatment services for offenders with behavioral health conditions, according to a news release from Hutchinson. A primary goal of the state’s investment in CSUs is to reduce the number of people with mental illness and other behavioral health conditions entering jails or other facilities, such as emergency rooms, not designed to effectively address their underlying behavioral health conditions.
CSUs also have the potential to improve outcomes for people with acute behavioral health conditions and reduce overall system costs to both the state and counties, including the strain on county jails. Sebastian County officials previously have said the units would help ease the jail population strain at local facilities.
Hudson explained that Greenwood would only pay for the individuals that the city brought to the facility.
“I understand that it is all about the money,” said Hudson. “Your concern is how much this is going to cost the City of Greenwood. You would only pay for those individual that you defer to the CSU.”
The judge stated that any individual that is mentally ill, but that is not dangerous or violent goes into the jail the county charges Greenwood $54 a day whereas the CSU will charge the city less.
“Not only will it cost less in that regard,” said Hudson. “The outcome is going to be better. Because individuals that have mental illness do not do well in the jail.”
Greenwood Police Chief, Will Dawson, stated that the police department is running into more and more people that are mentally incompetent each year. “This is an option that makes me feel better,” said Dawson.
Hudson also stated that the county jail has been running over capacity since 2013. “So if we can implement diversion programs and alternative sentencing and other attempts to control the jail population that is what we need to be doing,” said Hudson.
Councilman Tim Terry expressed his concern with the contract stating, “Let's say we don’t send anyone to the CSU for the first year. The way it looked was that we were still going to be cutting a check for building maintenance or rental space. That was our big concern.”
Hudson has said that there is an $18,000 cost for building maintenance that he hopes to spread over the six surrounding counties that he is attempting to get to participate in the program. The six counties are: Sebastian, Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Scott and Polk.
City Attorney Hamby stated that the agreement includes a formula for maintenance and upkeep of the premises that was a shared cost across the board and clarified that the $18,000 is not covered by the grant and is not the pro-rata share; he said if Greenwood doesn't send someone there it isn't limited to the $18,000 and the City may have to share a cost that is presently unknown.
Hamby further said the termination language in the contract is not included in the legal agreement and it reads that it can be terminated for cause of a material breach and advised that he would be satisfied with seeing language that says if the funding dries up that the City is not on the hook. He said he doesn't know if it can be modified and Judge Hudson replied that he is dealing with six counties and a lot of cities and does not want to modify. Judge Hudson said an
amount of trust needs to be applied.
“Personally I am all for it,” said Hamby. “I think we need it I just don’t like the language and I don’t want to be the one 10 years from now if the grant goes away for someone to say who is the idiot attorney that recommended this.”