Legislative budget writers have approved only a third of the requested $4.56 million in ongoing state funding, plus another $600,000 in start-up funds, for community crisis centers across the state next year. That puts the total state funding for the new centers next year at $2.12 million, instead of the requested $5.16 million.
Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, who made the motion, said it’ll be up to the state Department of Health & Welfare as to how many crisis centers to set up next year; the governor’s initiative for the centers anticipated three, as a pilot project. The centers are envisioned as a place for patients suffering from mental health crises to go on a voluntary basis, to avoid them landing in county jails or hospital emergency rooms.
Schmidt said Idaho communities have varying needs, though there are major needs in community mental health treatment throughout the state. The bill authorizing the centers, SB 1352, anticipates community investment in them as well as state funding. “I wanted to make sure we do this in a thoughtful, careful way, rather than plunk out a big contract,” Schmidt said. “I believe the mental health needs in our state are significant, but the policy direction for how to address them at this point hasn’t been clearly defined. So rather than take a big leap, I thought it should be a step. … This is a step in the right direction.”
Schmidt said though he proposed the motion, it was the result of extensive negotiations involving multiple lawmakers and the state department. It passed the joint committee with just three “no” votes, from Sens. Vick, Thayn and Bayer.