- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Opposition by northern Idaho lawmakers to a bill to pay for three mental health crisis centers is part of the reason Coeur d’Alene didn’t get a $1.5 million behavioral-health crisis center.

Information obtained by the Coeur d’Alene Press (https://bit.ly/1jxuOVR) through a public records request shows that a committee gave the city a higher score than winner Idaho Falls.

But criteria also included lawmaker support, which the center attained in eastern Idaho.

“The placement of additional centers depends on the success of this initial effort,” Jon Hanian, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s spokesman, told the newspaper Wednesday. “‘Success’ will include receiving continued financial support, which in turn will require having local legislative champions.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said a committee selected Idaho Falls based on outstanding community and the legislative support from the city and surrounding area.

Last month, Otter announced Idaho Falls as the site for the center that is intended to serve as a safety net to treat at-risk mentally ill people whose symptoms often land them in hospitals or jail.

Information from the center will be used to determine the feasibility of setting up other centers in other communities.

Law enforcement agencies in the state generally say such crisis centers are needed because police officers and jails typically aren’t equipped to deal with people suffering from mental illness.

“There is great need in all three communities for a behavioral health crisis center,” Hanian said.

Boise was also in the running, but like northern Idaho had lawmakers who opposed the health crises centers.

Of the 101 lawmakers who voted on the bill, 20 voted against it. Only one of the opposing votes came from eastern Idaho, where Idaho Falls is located. The bulk of the dissenters were in Treasure Valley and northern Idaho. Boise and Coeur d’Alene had the most opposition from lawmakers when the center was proposed in a bill. In addition, some of those lawmakers did not support the governor during the May primary election, which he won.

Hanian characterized the race between Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene as a “dead heat.”

“The fact that a majority of legislators in eastern Idaho wanted the project helped in the final decision,” said Hanian, adding that Otter supported that decision.

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


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