Pin It
Favorite

No Respite 

North Idaho officials are disappointed after losing their bid for a crisis center

click to enlarge Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger lobbied for a crisis center in Coeur d'Alene.
  • Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger lobbied for a crisis center in Coeur d'Alene.

In late May, it seemed their best, and only, chance for relief. North Idaho law enforcement and health care officials prayed that a proposed mental health crisis center in Coeur d'Alene could take on the increasing number of mentally ill patients now filling emergency rooms and tying up patrol officers.

Multiple police agencies report mental health calls taking a larger toll, pulling officers off the street for hours on end as they escort patients to treatment facilities — sometimes to out-of-county psych wards, undermining emergency staffing and overtime budgets.

Claudia Miewald, director of the Kootenai Behavioral Health Center, cited more than 700 admittances for involuntary mental health patients in the past 12 months, a growing number that sometimes forces the hospital to rearrange rooms to fit extra beds. Staff spent at least 4,000 hours sitting with patients awaiting treatment.

"You can see how that would be a stressor," she says.

But Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced last week that Coeur d'Alene would not get a crisis center this year. Legislators had approved funding for just one of three proposed centers, and state officials had prioritized Idaho Falls. While Otter initially asked for funding for all three centers, he praised lawmakers last week for approving a test facility before committing to other crisis centers.

"In the legislature's wisdom ... " Otter told a news conference in Idaho Falls, "they said, 'Well, let's put one together first, and then learn from that nuclear seed.'"

The Idaho center would operate based on a program in Billings, Montana, that provides people with a voluntary assessment, crisis counseling, overnight accommodations, food and follow-up treatment planning to help avoid future episodes. Billings officials say the center has dramatically reduced ER visits and jail bookings.

Local officials believe it was a split in support from Coeur d'Alene legislators that undermined their bid. Several local representatives voted against the funding, calling it an unnecessary government expense. But others expressed disappointment with the missed opportunity to establish a local center.

Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger had helped organized law enforcement support for the center, compiling letters from regional police chiefs facing the same challenges with the growing number of mental health calls and resource shortages. He hopes officials might reconsider funding additional centers next year.

"There's just not the support from our local legislators," he says, adding, "For those of us who deal with people in crisis on a daily basis, it's a pretty big disappointment." ♦

jacobj@inlander.com

  • Pin It

Speaking of Mental Health, State Of Mind

Latest in News

  • In Their Best Interest
  • In Their Best Interest

    Why many neglected kids don't have legal representation for critical decisions that could dictate their future
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • 'Right Side of History'
  • 'Right Side of History'

    The Washington Supreme Court rules against Arlene's Flowers; plus, two dogs call it a day
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Frozen Out
  • Frozen Out

    In the middle of a chaotic winter, the city of Spokane ousted its veteran street director, but won't give an explanation to the city council
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Manufacturing Fear
  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • The Syrian
  • The Syrian

    One family from Syria has found welcoming arms in Spokane, and many others may follow
    • Sep 24, 2015
  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015

Comments


Comments are closed.

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Spokane Social Sketch

Spokane Social Sketch @ Boots Bakery & Lounge

Last Sunday of every month, 2-5 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Jacob Jones

Most Commented On

  • We Have Not Yet Begun to Fight

    Why we're filling the streets to protest Trump's inhumane, dangerous policies
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Obscene Gestures

    Spokane political party leaders hope to harness post-election passion into civil discourse. But so far, there's only been more strife
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


Comment


do something


Readers also liked…

  • Trump vs. Jesus
  • Trump vs. Jesus

    Why my conservative Christian parents can't vote for the Republican for president this time
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Envision This!
  • Envision This!

    DSP is fighting the proposed Worker Bill of Rights; plus, finalists for Spokane's police ombudsman
    • Jul 22, 2015
  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest
  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest

    No, it's not as bad as in California, but drought is taking a hefty toll
    • Jul 29, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation