Douglas County Commission to discuss new health order, homelessness assessments

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A new COVID-19 emergency health order and two homelessness needs assessments are among the topics to be discussed at the Douglas County Commission’s Wednesday meeting. 

The latest emergency health order posed by Douglas County’s local health officer addresses COVID-19 risk in congregate housing. 

If passed, it will allow some clients of community agencies serving people experiencing homelessness and those who are “precariously housed” to be temporarily housed in hotels, according to the agenda. That way, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 can be isolated and have adequate space for social distancing.  

The order would also apply to healthcare workers, emergency first responders and public safety officials who aren’t able to quarantine at home, as well as members of treatment programs. It does not apply to people who are incarcerated.

Some other key points from the meeting’s agenda include:

Allocations of nearly $98,000 to assess available programs and needs to address local homelessness.  

Two agreements — one with the University of Kansas Center for Research Inc., one with the Corporation for Supportive Housing — pose needs assessments at costs of $71,525 and $26,000, respectively. 

The first, through KU’s Center for Public Partnerships, would engage local stakeholders and agencies to analyze current programs and services available for families and individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It has timeline dates through May 2022. The second, working with the county’s behavioral health staff, would review systems in place and needs for supportive housing, with a timeline of this month through August 2022. The needs assessment and recommendations would be frontloaded in 2021, with technical assistance available to the county and the City of Lawrence afterward.

The assessments would be funded by money the county has received from the American Rescue Plan.  

An agreement for $1.3 million toward a new mental health center.  

Behavioral Health Partners, a nonprofit formed by LMH Health and the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, plans to put this allocation toward leadership, development and operations for its new Treatment and Recovery Center. The center is set to open in early 2022, and LMH hopes to present another long-term funding agreement to the county commission in December.  

An amicus brief on behalf of the Shawnee Mission School District.  

SMSD has requested that Douglas County file an amicus brief — a document usually filed with a court by a non-party to a case who might also be impacted by the case’s outcome — in support of the school district in a case challenging masks in schools.

The brief would be regarding the Butler v. Shawnee Mission School District case, in which the Johnson County District Court ruled in favor of the school district after parents protested the use of masks in the classroom. District Judge David Hauber ruled SB 40, a bill requiring governmental bodies and school districts in Kansas to respond to complaints against policies under a sped-up timeframe, to be unconstitutional. However, the Kansas Supreme Court has since stayed that ruling.

The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m., both virtually via Zoom and in person at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Find the full agenda here

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