- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Hastings leaders have vowed to help find workers to staff a proposed behavioral health treatment center for prison inmates, if it were placed in the south-central Nebraska city.

Local leaders made their pitch at a legislative hearing held Wednesday in the Hastings City Council chambers, the Hastings Tribune (http://bit.ly/1J1HjPE ) reported.

Hastings Mayor Vern Powers, CEO and president Eric Barber of Mary Lanning Healthcare and Hastings Economic Development Corporation executive director Dave Rippe all spoke in favor of the proposal, saying the city has the ability to bring the necessary jobs to the proposed center.

The Legislature passed a bill in spring 2014 authorizing $199,000 to study placement of the center at the Hastings Regional Center, a former state psychiatric hospital. To qualify for placement in the center, inmates would have to be within 12 to 18 months of parole or sentence completion.

The program is aimed at reducing recidivism among convicts as well as the Nebraska prison population.

“We, as a city, working hand in hand with an incredible mental health treatment facility and staff at Mary Lanning Hospital are again ready to assume the mantle of mental healthcare treatment at the Hastings Regional Center,” Powers said.

Others, including former State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, who is now with the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, believes will be extremely difficult. Dubas told lawmakers that staffing the center would be a challenge for Hastings.

Rippe said staffing hurdles aren’t exclusive to Hastings, “and should our state elect to go forward with this facility, these hurdles will need to be addressed regardless of location.”

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Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com

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