- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - State officials selected Idaho Falls on Thursday as the site of a new $1.5 million behavioral-health crisis center, a decision some lawmakers said appeared to be influenced by politics.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter made the announcement at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport to build the center in the area where it and Otter had received strong support from lawmakers.

Boise and Coeur d’Alene had also been in the running for the center. 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.

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.

“There are political consequences for actions,” said state Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene. “When you vote no against appropriations, when you support the governor’s opponent in a primary, well, those kinds of actions can certainly color people’s decisions.”

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.

Those who opposed the crisis center legislation included state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who waged a failed campaign against Otter in the primary.

State Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, a member of the legislative health and welfare committee, said he agreed that legislative support helped the department select Idaho Falls.

“It was certainly a factor, I’m sure,” he said. “I voted for it because it was near my area and we need it.”

Department spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said the committee considered the support of lawmakers but said the final decision was based on several components.

Fulcher spoke highly of the crisis center but didn’t remember why he opposed it.

“If I voted against it, I must have had a problem with the funding source,” Fulcher said.

The center 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, said Forbing-Orr. She said officials expect to have the clinic open in the next four months depending how fast the contracting process goes.

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