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Senate backs mental health crisis centers, after long debate

The Senate debated long and hard before passing SB 1352 today, to establish three behavioral health community crisis centers next year around the state. Supporters said the initiative, which Gov. Butch Otter highlighted in his State of the State message to lawmakers this year, will provide a better option than jails or hospital emergency rooms for people suffering from mental health crises.

“It helps law enforcement do the right thing and what they want to do,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, “and ... maybe most importantly, it helps the person who’s having the mental health crisis, to get the help they need and get past their crisis in a safe manner.” Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, reacting to concerns from opponents about competing with the private sector, said, “There are private options out there, but those costs are extensive and the beds are limited. This is a component of a better system. … The real competition here is the emergency room and the jails. This system really isn’t working, and those aren’t the best options.” The bill passed, 28-6.

Those voting no: Sens. Bayer, Fulcher, Mortimer, Nonini, Nuxoll and Pearce. SB 1352 now moves to the House side.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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