- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - A northern Idaho county sheriff and four area police chiefs have signed a letter written by a state senator requesting that Coeur d’Alene get a behavioral-health crisis center instead of two other cities.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports (https://bit.ly/ObgenK) in a story on Tuesday that Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Ron Clark, Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug, Rathdrum Police Chief Kevin Fuhr and Spirit Lake Police Chief Keith Hutcheson signed the document.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, wrote the letter.

“When federal funding ceased for involuntary commitments in the 1980s and mental health facilities/hospitals were forced to close down, all law enforcement agencies throughout the nation struggled to find a suitable facility that was appropriate for both voluntary and involuntary patients,” the March 20 letter says. “This unfortunate decision placed a burden on all communities and law enforcement agencies that had to deal with mental illness.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare requested $600,000 in startup money and $4.56 million to operate three crisis centers, planned for Boise, Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene. The centers would serve as a safety net to treat at-risk mentally ill people whose symptoms often land them in hospitals or jail.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved the $600,000 grant, but they reduced operations funding to $1.52 million, enough for only one crisis center.

Tom Shanahan, spokesman for Health and Welfare, said the department will request information from the three cities in the next two or three weeks to determine level of need. The department will be looking at how quickly the communities could have a crises center operating, and if the city could help pay some of the expenses, he said.

Officials from the cities will have about a month to respond, Shanahan said.

“We won’t know a whole lot more for another six to eight weeks,” he said.

If two cities develop a plan to help pay enough of the expenses, Shanahan said, there’s a possibility two crisis centers could be created, splitting the money approved by the state.

“There were, and always are, more requests for funding than there is funding available,” Goedde said. “Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho need to sit down and develop a plan for how to sell itself.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com


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