- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Officials in Hastings are pushing for a treatment center that would help inmates transition back into society to be built in their central Nebraska city.

State Sen. Les Seiler, of Hastings, and Hastings Mayor Vern Powers held a news conference Wednesday to lobby for the proposed Behavioral Health Treatment Center’s placement in Hastings, the Hastings Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1C2pO38 ).

Architects, engineers and others visited the Hastings Regional Center in October to examine the property and see whether some of its existing buildings could be renovated. A study released Tuesday said the buildings would likely not be suitable for the 200-bed facility that would treat male inmates for behavioral health and substance abuse issues, and instead recommends building a new facility at an estimated cost of nearly $44 million.

Seiler and Powers dismissed the report’s finding that Hastings has a limited pool of behavioral health professionals and could have trouble recruiting and retaining clinical staff to provide treatment.

“I think if we build it, they will come,” Seiler said.

The state prison system is at 157 percent of capacity with about 4,500 inmates, and officials have said 31 percent of the prisoners need such treatment programs. The former state hospital houses only the Hastings Juvenile Chemical Dependency Program, which provides residential treatment for young men paroled from the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Center in Kearney.

The Legislature passed a bill last spring authorizing $199,000 to study placement of the center in the Hastings Regional Center complex.

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.

The study says the center would employ more than 280 people with an annual payroll of more than $13 million.

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


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