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Pilot clinics seek to aid mentally ill without jail


The crisis stabilization unit will serve Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Polk, Scott and Sebastian counties.


By Dave Hughes
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

FORT SMITH -- Officials in western Arkansas are anticipating a January opening for a medical clinic to receive and treat mentally ill people who are in crisis and would otherwise end up in the county jail.

A building at Fort Smith's Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center will be renovated and become a crisis stabilization unit for western Arkansas' six-county catchment area that will comprise Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Polk, Scott and Sebastian.

The 16-bed unit is to become one of four around the state in counties chosen to participate in a pilot program aimed at keeping mentally ill people from being put in jail or taken to hospital emergency rooms during psychiatric crises that draw the attention of law enforcement officers.

Each of the counties that will have a unit -- Craighead, Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington -- were awarded grants totaling $1.6 million for operation of the units.

The Sebastian County Quorum Court appropriated its grant Tuesday, but County Judge David Hudson said most of it will be spent when the Fort Smith unit opens next year.

Sebastian County is responsible for costs of preparing the unit to open. The Quorum Court voted Tuesday to appropriate $44,000 from two county sales tax funds to supplement the $140,000 in county funds already allocated to renovate the guidance center's building.

Hudson said in a memo to Quorum Court members that the additional expense arose when architects re-evaluated the unit's design and after the state updated requirements for the unit. Read more.

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