- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas legislative committee is being urged to authorize creation of a network of emergency observation and treatment facilities for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1iOOfK2 ) reports Overland Park police officer Tom Keary and Leawood police officer Ken Whiteside have urged the interim committee to establish the network as an alternative to jail or a state hospital. Facilities would handle involuntary commitments ranging from 48 to 72 hours so that individuals can be quickly stabilized and more informed decisions about treatment can be made.

“Jail should never be the first option for somebody who needs help,” said Whiteside.

In the proposal, communities or counties would not be required by the state to develop an emergency crisis facility for voluntary commitments. Officers would have the jurisdiction to place an individual at a designated crisis center. According to the proposal, if the person is not stabilized within 48 hours, the process to get a court order to hold someone longer than 72 hours would begin.

Several legislators agreed that a gap exists in the state’s safety net for people with mental health issues, but expressed concerns about the network’s feasibility.

Republican Sen. Molly Baumgardner said she doubted the state’s capacity to establish and finance a suitable network of treatment centers.

Committee member Ramon Gonzalez, a House Republican from Perry, said the state’s urban areas might be able to pay for one of these special facilities. He expressed skepticism that most rural jurisdictions would have the resources to do the same.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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