Nashville's Davidson County Behavioral Care Center

Immediate need exists for contractors interested in alternative healthcare facilities

May 17, 2024

Public officials in every major city in America are dealing with responsibilities related to the mental health issues of a portion of their residents. County leaders in heavily populated regions are also dealing with the same problems. Their issues and challenges related to mental health and substance abuse affect public safety, homelessness and healthcare resources. The costs are extremely high at a time when local officials are stretched for funding as well as the required resources. The dilemma has, however, forced some visionary thinking and innovative solutions. It has also prompted funding programs at the federal level of government. 

The state of Tennessee was an early mover in finding ways to divert people in need of mental health and substance abuse treatment away from incarceration in jails. State officials invested instead in facilities such as the Davidson County Behavioral Care Center in Nashville. As these facilities showed remarkable success, the program was expanded. People arrested in Davidson County are now 17% less likely than the state average ever to be arrested again.

Mental health diversion centers such as these are becoming common throughout the country, and the trend is gaining momentum quickly.

Texas officials in Travis County launched a diversion pilot program in March, and plans are being developed to construct a larger, permanent facility to house the program eventually. In addition to the benefits that result when men and women are treated, cost reductions occur, public safety is enhanced, and taxpayer funds can be invested in other areas. Untreated mental health issues often lead people to cycle through jails repeatedly, with consistently negative results. In the initial two years of the Tennessee diversion program, costs associated with mental health and substance abuse were reduced by $10 million. A similar diversion program in Miami reduced incarceration costs by $4 million in the first year alone.  A cost reduction is laudatory, but it pales in comparison to the benefit of salvaging people and enhancing public safety for all citizens.

As puzzling as it sounds, it does not appear to be common knowledge that such initiatives are eligible immediately for funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Along with that good news, however, it is important to note that a funding deadline is looming. ARPA funds must be allocated to local governments by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Officials in Shelby County, Tennessee, recently announced a plan to build a county mental health facility in Memphis. The upcoming project carries a projected cost of $21 million. The new Mental Health, Intervention, and Diversion Center will provide 60 beds and allow the county jail to divert people in need of mental health or substance abuse assistance during the booking process. The plan is to approve a design contract in June and a construction manager at risk (CMAR) contract in December. The initiative is fast-tracked because of the ARPA funding deadline.

A new $23 million mental health crisis intake center will be constructed in the city of Bowling Green, Kentucky. It will be supported by state funding and be overseen by the Barren River Area Development District (BRADD). The facility will be designed to serve ten counties in the region. In addition to providing mental health treatment, it will also host an Office of Drug Control Policy and a Life Learning Center program for people recovering from substance abuse. Officials hope to launch the project in 2024.

The state of Texas plans to construct a $34 million behavioral health facility soon.  The funding will come from the state, and the facility will be located in Uvalde. The city has donated land to become the home of the Uvalde Behavioral Health Campus. The project will deliver a unit with 16 beds for adult treatment and another area with 16 additional beds dedicated to pediatric care. Two buildings are currently in the plan. Additional facets of the project include developing the campus to function as a diversion center that increases safety for citizens and comfort for those treated there. Construction is slated to begin later in 2024.

Oklahoma City officials will oversee a $44.6 million mental health and addiction project designed to expand the city’s current mental health and substance abuse services. The project will have multiple elements, including constructing two mental health crisis centers, a restoration center and transitional housing. The two mental health centers carry a projected combined cost of $12.3 million.  They will be designed with space for examinations, detoxifications, crisis de-escalation, and counseling.  A $24.5 million restoration center will provide the many functionalities of a crisis center. It will house medically supervised detoxification and substance abuse counseling and provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction and case management of clients.

Temporary transitional housing will be built for people experiencing mental illness and homelessness while transitioning out of a crisis center. This housing component of the initiative has been projected to cost $7.8 million for construction. Design for the crisis centers and restoration center will start this year. Construction on the facilities and the transitional housing is slated to launch in 2025.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and Sedgwick County are the designated partners to develop a new $40 million state psychiatric hospital. The South Central Regional Psychiatric Hospital, scheduled for construction in Wichita, Kansas, will deliver acute inpatient care to people with mental and behavioral health concerns. Funding support will come from various areas, and $15 million has been allocated by the Kansas State Finance Council. The new hospital will provide spaces for up to 100 patient beds and secure forensic bed areas. Construction is slated for 2025, and project leaders expect the facility to be completed and operational by the end of 2026.

Before funding deadlines are reached, public officials needing this type of financial support should immediately begin drafting grant applications.

Photo courtesy of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office

Mary Scott Nabers

Mary is President/CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a business development/public affairs firm that specializes in procurement consulting, market research, government affairs, knowledge transfer and public-private partnerships (P3s). Mary is also co-founder of the Gemini Global Group (G3), a firm that works with national and international clients on business development, P3s, and other types of government objectives.

A recognized expert regarding P3s, Mary is the author of Collaboration Nation – How Public-Private Ventures Are Revolutionizing the Business of Government and Inside the Infrastructure Revolution – A Roadmap for Rebuilding America.

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