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Sheriff exploring next steps for mental health facility

The Jonesboro Sun - 10/10/2017

JONESBORO - As of right now, there is no "plan B" for the mental health crisis stabilization unit, after plans to use an existing building for the unit, as well as a homeless shelter, fell through due to neighbors' complaints.

"We have the grant, but we have no place to go with it," Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd told members of the Craighead County Quorum Court on Monday.

He said the plan for now is to explore possibly locating the unit in a new building to be constructed near the county detention center. Boyd asked the public service committee of the quorum court to "get the ball rolling" to determine how much money the building would cost, and if such a project is even feasible.

In addition to the cost of building the unit, which is unknown at this time, the former Ridgecrest Health Care nursing home building that had been offered to the county was ready for the unit to be moved in.

"The facility ... was basically already fitted for our needs, so it would've been minimal cost to refurbish that part of the building," Boyd said. "So that's one of the major deals we have to look at now because of new construction."

Locating the unit on detention center property wouldn't cause as much opposition as the previous location, Boyd said. Last week, residents of North Church Street spoke against the unit's location at 3016 N. Church St., citing safety concerns, which were echoed by Jonesboro Public Schools Superintendent Kim Wilbanks. The board of Homeless Ministries of Jonesboro voted to withdraw from the agreement, leaving both the shelter and the unit without a home.

While 13 counties would use the unit, Boyd told members of the committee he's not sure if other counties could be charged for the use of the facility.

As of right now, the county is not in danger of losing the $1.6 million grant given for operational costs, Boyd said. At some undetermined point in the future, should the facility not be operational, Boyd said the money could be lost. The state previously set a November deadline for the facility to be operational, but Boyd said the state is aware that's simply not possible.

The facility will hold 16 beds and will be anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 square feet.

If the county does not find another existing building and is forced to construct a new building, funds would come out of the capital fund. Justice of the Peace Josh Longmire said the county's capital funds are below $2 million, though that number should be increasing as taxes are received in the coming weeks.

"It affects all the county budgets," Boyd said.

He will work with officials and businesses to try to determine a possible cost this week.

After obtaining the grant and receiving the building, Boyd said news of the decision to withdraw was "disappointing."

"The only thing we can do is move forward and see where we go from here," Boyd said.


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