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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council commits $1.1 million to new jail diversion facility

The Spokane City Council agreed to contribute $1.1 million toward a new facility to treat people with mental health and substance abuse disorders.  (Christopher Anderson)

The Spokane City Council agreed Monday to contribute $1.1 million toward a new facility that will, in lieu of jail, treat people with mental health and substance abuse disorders who are arrested for low-level crimes.

Spokane County will contribute $1.5 million toward the construction of the Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Facility.

The remainder of the estimated $9.1 million cost to build the facility will be paid for by grants.

Expected to open in June, the facility will be located in the former county motor pool building, just a few blocks northeast of the Spokane County Jail and Courthouse.

The council agreed to contribute $1.1 million through an interlocal agreement with Spokane County on Monday, but it has not voted on where the funding will come from.

Regardless of where it pulls funds from, City Council President Breean Beggs said the upfront investment is “fairly modest compared to the money” the project has received from the state Legislature.

The facility is intended to serve as an alternative to jail for people accused of low-level crimes and who, in the opinion of law enforcement or the Spokane County prosecutor, would be better served by mental health treatment than a stay in jail.

The arrested person must also agree to go to the stabilization facility instead of the jail.

Its advocates, which include a broad spectrum of Spokane County leaders, expect the facility to reduce recidivism.

Beggs, who has made criminal justice reform a cornerstone of his political career and professional life as an attorney, also highlighted the cost savings the city may reap after the stabilization facility is built.

Currently, the city of Spokane pays more than $130 a night to house someone it arrests in the county jail. On top of that figure, the county is responsible for their medical and mental health expenses, Beggs said, because Medicaid does not cover treatment for jail inmates.

By creating a facility that is not a jail, Beggs said “the vast majority of the cost of treating them and housing them is picked up by Medicaid.”

The facility will accommodate 46 people when it opens.

“The sooner we can get going on the facility, the sooner it can be operational,” city attorney Michael Ormbsy told the council on Monday.