Editorial: Best decision on mental health

August 19, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

The Douglas County Commission made the right decision in choosing to seek a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction and operation of a mental health campus.

The county’s other options included a half-cent sales tax increase and a combination of sales and property taxes. The quarter-cent sales tax gives the mental health campus the best chance of success.

The mental health campus includes plans for a 20,000-square-foot crisis center with sobering and detoxification units, transitional housing for those with behavioral health issues and funding for new mental health services.

Editorial: Mental health center on ballot

July 20, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

Douglas County commissioners are right to support a ballot initiative asking voters to approve funding for a behavioral health campus and expanded mental health programming.

The issue, which still must be finalized, will be on the ballot in November. The move follows voters’ rejection in May of a half-cent sales tax proposal that would have funded both an expanded Douglas County Jail as well as the behavioral health campus.

That contentious vote failed in large part due to organized opposition from groups like Justice Matters that supported the mental health campus but were staunchly opposed to the expanded jail. The vote was 53 percent against the ballot issue and 47 percent for it.

At forum, public demands separate ballot question for behavioral health campus, services

May 30, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

At a public forum Wednesday, voters asked county leaders to end any plans to expand the county jail, as well as to pose a new ballot question that would only fund mental health and substance abuse needs.

The forum drew about 500 people Wednesday evening to Building 21 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. County commissioners scheduled it earlier this month after voters defeated Proposition 1, which, if it had passed, would have authorized a countywide half-cent sales tax to fund a $44 million jail expansion, an $11 million behavioral health campus and $5.1 million in additional behavioral health services.

Proposition 1 foes will urge county to move forward with behavioral health campus, hire consultant to review criminal justice system

May 23, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

A week after county voters rejected Proposition 1, two key groups in the fight against the referendum said they’ll push the county to move ahead with the ballot question’s behavioral health components while bringing in outside expertise to review the county’s criminal justice system.

The demands from the faith-based activist group Justice Matters and the social justice advocacy organization Kansas Appleseed are not new. The Jail No coalition, which consisted of those two groups, the Douglas County chapter of the NAACP and the taxpayer watchdog group Lawrence Sunset Alliance, made similar demands while it campaigned against Proposition 1.

Editorial: Consider issues separately

December 19, 2017. Lawrence Journal-World.

If Douglas County does decide to pursue a mental health crisis center, any bond issue to fund the center should be presented separately from a proposal to build a new county jail.

A plan for a mental health campus was presented to Douglas County commissioners last week. The site is north of the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center along West Second Street and northeast of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The campus would provide three tiers of housing for people experiencing mental health crises: