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Dane Co. allocates $300,000 to plan for new mental-health center

By: Michaela Paukner, [email protected]//September 24, 2020

Dane Co. allocates $300,000 to plan for new mental-health center

By: Michaela Paukner, [email protected]//September 24, 2020

Dane County is allocating $300,000 to plan for a new mental-health center meant to divert people with behavioral health from the criminal-justice system.

At a press conference on Thursday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the 2021 budget will set aside $300,000 for the planning stage of the mental-health triage and restoration center. The center will provide services to deal with mental health both inside and outside the criminal justice system.

“It’s grounded in the concept of ‘no wrong door,'” Parisi said. “An individual can access services by walking in, being referred or brought in by law enforcement.”

Law enforcement can now take someone having a behavioral-health emergency to jail or to an emergency room. Analiese Eicher, Dane County board chair and chair of the Criminal Justice Council, said the center would provide a needed alternative.

“The goal is to see the reduction of folks who don’t need to be in jail,” Eicher said. “This is about diverting right away and getting them the help that they need so they don’t ever come in contact with our system for a simple behavioral-health issue.”

Eicher said law enforcement have asked for the center and are supportive of the idea. The center’s planning stage, set for 2021, will include conversations with local law enforcement and residents. The board will also identify a site for the center and conduct a population analysis.

The triage and restoration center is the latest in the county’s initiatives to improve mental health. Parisi said the county built a $1 million-a-year school-based mental-health program in recent years, and the new Dane County Behavioral Health Resource Center will open in a few weeks.

Eicher said the county spends almost $65 million a year on mental-illness and addiction services.

Parisi is set to introduce his full 2021 budget on Oct. 1.

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