Mental health facility goes south - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Mental health facility goes south

Local lawmakers believed North Idaho was first in line for center

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Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Gov. Butch Otter is expected to announce this morning that Idaho Falls will be the first city in the state to receive a new Behavioral Health Community Crisis Center.

Some North Idaho lawmakers believe that Coeur d'Alene was the frontrunner in a three-way competition for the facility, but lost because the Kootenai County legislative delegation was split in its support for the facility.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved the construction of three Behavior Health Community Crisis Centers in Idaho, but will only fund one center per year.

The Legislature appropriated $2.1 million to fund the center and asked three communities to compete for the first center.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene, said he supported the project because he knows the drag that mental health issues have on communities.

As a former prosecutor, a sitting legislator and from his role with Heritage Health, Malek knows firsthand what a facility like that would have meant to the community.

"Those who didn't support this didn't take the time to learn what the fiscal impact not having this will have on our community," he said, adding it affects law enforcement, the hospital, Panhandle Health District, the courts and Heritage Health, to name a few.

The Behavioral Health Crisis Centers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. They provide an environment to de-escalate mental health patients or substance abusers who are in crisis. It is an outpatient service that would take the pressure off emergency rooms, courts and jails, Malek explained.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, who sat on the governor's health care task force that recommended the centers, said he thought Coeur d'Alene was the frontrunner.

"It sounds like because of the antics some of our legislators were engaged in, we lost out," Goedde said, adding that he had just heard the news Wednesday.

"There was a selection committee from health and welfare that went through the applications and ranked them," Goedde said. "It is my understanding that the committee ranked them and sent a recommendation to the governor's office.

"It would be interesting to find out how Coeur d'Alene ranked in that process," he said. "I think Idaho Falls got it because their delegation supported it."

Niki Forbing-Orr, a spokesperson for Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said she could not discuss the decision process other than to say it was the department's decision on where to locate the first center.

She said the committee did make a recommendation and that was sent to the governor, but ultimately it was the department's decision to choose the location.

"I cannot confirm anything else," she said, adding that she would be sending out a media advisory announcing a press conference today to reveal which city would get the new center.

That advisory said Otter would make an important announcement at the Idaho Falls Airport today at 8:30 a.m.

Otter's Communications Director Mark Warbis didn't return phone calls regarding the center on Wednesday.

Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, said he had heard the news on Wednesday as well. He voted to support the center because he felt it made good fiscal sense.

Morse said the legislative debate on the issue focused on how the centers would save taxpayer dollars by providing mental health care cheaper than the hospital emergency rooms, courtrooms and jails.

"There is a real critical need for that up here," Morse said. "It keeps people with mental health and substance-abuse problems out of emergency rooms and jails."

He said the opposition argued that it was an expansion of an entitlement program, but he doesn't see it that way.

"This isn't about expansion of entitlements," he said. "It just became a political thing."

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, opposed the project.

"The expense was my overall concern," he said. "It would have been nice to see that built up here, but there are a number of mental health programs and clinics up here."

He thinks that weighed on the IDHW decision to locate the first facility in Idaho Falls.

"That is the reason it went there," he said. "I don't believe the decision was political at all."

Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Post Falls, also opposed the centers, but he believes the decision to build in Idaho Falls could have been political.

"That clearly is a possibility," he said. "North Idaho didn't support Gov. Otter in the primary, and sometime that's just how these things work."

Mendive said he couldn't support the Behavioral Health Community Crisis Center program because it was an expansion of government.

"That would have been my primary opposition to this," he said. "There just isn't enough money to go around."

He conceded that the supporters of the center had a viable argument, but he just couldn't support the program because it was expanding the bureaucracy.

"I think part of that legislation was to create an oversight committee," Mendive said. "Every time you turn around, the government is creating a new agency, or board or commission.

"The bureaucracy continues to grow," he added. "And we have less and less legislative oversight."

He believes the private sector is a better solution to government.

Neither Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene; nor Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, returned phone messages Wednesday. They both voted against the centers as well.

Morse said he believes that level of opposition certainly played a role in the state's decision.

"It becomes a huge risk when the community's representatives didn't support it," Morse said. "There is a logical disconnect with some of these legislators that believe voting 'no' on everything is a good strategy, but at some point they have to start analyzing issues, solving problems and determine the needs of the community and what is cost-effective in government."

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  • Cody Wiench posted at 10:51 am on Tue, Jul 1, 2014.

    Cody Wiench Posts: 355

    Maybe once seeing the benefits this center can have for the IF community, the legislators will be more prone to support it.

  • jmowreader posted at 12:03 am on Fri, Jun 27, 2014.

    jmowreader Posts: 1494

    Coeur d'Alene's anti-everything attitude is famous statewide. The strength of opposition here to EVERYTHING is astounding. It doesn't matter whether it's a new jail, halfway house for people getting out of prison, homeless shelter, park, Salvation Army community center, workforce apartment building, hydroplane race...anything. If they try to build it you will come...with protest signs. I wonder how much of the reason we didn't get this center is the high degree of difficulty the state would have had in siting it.

  • Freethinker posted at 2:54 pm on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Freethinker Posts: 531

    How many suicides by cop have happened in our community? The video of one that went down was posted on this website. That would have been manslaughter in any truly civilized country, IMHO.

    There is no greater need in N. Idaho than emergency mental health services. Without alternatives to criminalizing the mentally ill, the costs get multiplied X times, with no tangible benefits or cures.

    There is no market solution where there is no profit opportunity. Sadly mental illness is a problem that falls on the families of the ill who aren't in a financial position to help. The mentally ill who are without trust funds or insurance aren't able to hold jobs, or pay for insurance. Their actions then get criminalized, when treatment would have offered both better outcomes and lower costs to the community.

    In a state like Idaho that fights socialized health care, that resists new ideas, and chooses to remain cemented in stagnant one party politics, I see very little hope for a bright future. I have to laugh when I hear grandios ideas to create an Idaho Silicon Valley. What farsighted technological giant would choose to move here?

  • lola123 posted at 2:39 pm on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    lola123 Posts: 352

    Just expect more of the same for voting for these tea party morons in May. We now will have mor of this idiotic logic. Lord help us.

  • Why Not posted at 12:01 pm on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    Great Post Dan... a friend in MH at KMC says the place is often bursting at the seams. Our representation is out of touch and its only going to get worse. That is unless people realize there is one more chance to dump some of them in November

  • Why Not posted at 11:39 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    The situation with mental health in this community is at the breaking point and KMC is often on overflow managing cases which could be better handled by a community center. The loss is directly on he backs of some irresponsible actions by certain local representatives who put their narrow minded ideology before their community. Furthermore isn't just wonderful, primary over and the usual suspects can't be reached for comment. One for sure is probably at home in CA, lollygagging on their private yacht. The other I can imagine is hiding under the kitchen table or in a bathroom.

  • Why Not posted at 11:30 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    Sour Grapes? How about Barbieri's antics at the legislature?

  • will-- posted at 9:28 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    will-- Posts: 1213

    "Morse said he believes'..."

    After the drubbing in the last election and resulting sour grapes, Mr. Morse wouldn't be expected to be the most objective interviewee.

  • huntersthompson posted at 9:00 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    huntersthompson Posts: 61

    Barbieri and Mendive prove again that they are truly morons.

  • Ziggy posted at 8:23 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Ziggy Posts: 1295

    Barbieri is totally out of touch with reality. What a loss. This could have helped the community economically and socially.

  • oscar posted at 8:12 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    oscar Posts: 1707

    Although our local legislators are pathetic in most ways, it is ultimately the vote of the ignorant Idaho voter that gets these people in office to make their boneheaded decisions. It is sad that these wackos have moved into the area to change CDA area politics.

  • JustMyOpinion67 posted at 7:44 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    JustMyOpinion67 Posts: 43

    So our local legislators are not interested in supporting more mental health resources to the community, nor are they interested in the positive economic impact that a facility like this would have on the community. It was not a question of wether or not to build the new facility. The facility is going to be built. So what do they think is important to their constituents?


  • SamuelStanding posted at 7:41 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 620

    Maybe "Kootenai County legislative delegation" actually LISTENED to the people of Kootenai County?

    Hahahaha ahhhh, just kidding! Our elected officials NEVER listen to their constituits!

  • EAK posted at 7:23 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    EAK Posts: 23

    This is extremely disappointing as Kootenai County has a disproportionately high percentage of people who could have benefitted from such a facility. We also have one of the highest suicide rates in the country. To allow some of our incompetent legislators to blow it is unacceptable. Until the electorate wakes up around here, we will continue to be left behind.

  • Dan English posted at 7:08 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Dan English Posts: 192

    That is bad news and a terrible and a terrible response from some of our legislators. Besides not helping with a clearly identified community need they are really working against every property tax payer in Kootenai County. Those folks end up in police holds and other types of treatment that in many cases gets paid for by the county indigent fund. As the former Auditor and Clerk I can tell you that funding comes 100% from property tax funds and runs into the millions. The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is certainly true in this case and they will cost us plenty with their self-serving and selfish points of view and inaction. Show some leadership for once.

    Shame on them for letting us all down. I speak as the former Clerk, a native of Kootenai County and a Licensed Professional Counselor for 20 plus years and involved in many helping organizations and the faith community. They do not have the resources to do this on their own or it would have been done decades ago.


  • Veeeee posted at 5:39 am on Thu, Jun 26, 2014.

    Veeeee Posts: 423

    All three areas need the centers immediately. However, since they are being built out in stages, Health and Welfare has all of the data that shows how many individuals are receiving emergency and crisis services and which areas are lowest in resources. This would seem to be a straightforward decision that the area in Idaho with the most patients in need and least amount of resources receive a crisis center first. Politics shouldn't be a part of a decision like this. thanks.

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