- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Renovating a building or construction a new one at the former state psychiatric hospital in Hastings could help Nebraska house and treat up to 240 prison inmates who have issues with mental health or addiction, a state senator said.

Hastings Sen. Les Seiler shared some details about the proposal Tuesday during a Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce legislative forum, the Hastings Tribune said (https://bit.ly/1s8myzs ). He said the new treatment programs would help inmates transition back into society and avoid reoffending.

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 the idea. Senators directed the departments of Health and Human Services and Correctional Services to work on a formal proposal for what was referred to as the Hastings Correctional Behavioral Health Treatment Center. The proposal is due back to the Legislature and the governor’s office by Dec. 15.

Architects and engineers will visit the Hastings Regional Center on Oct. 7 to examine the property, Seiler said. State officials also are asking whether local businesses would be interested in a work-release program.

“That’s important,” Seiler said. “It gives them a job and a reason to get out. It gives them an opportunity to get a skill.”


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

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