Justice Matters holds prayer vigil at Douglas County Treatment & Recovery Center

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Local activists held a prayer vigil Saturday morning in hopes that the Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center will open its doors soon.

Justice Matters, a local coalition of faith-based organizations, has long pushed for the county to expedite the TRC’s opening. The center will add to resources and options available for people who experience mental and behavioral health crises and substance use disorders.


The group’s mental health research team led the prayer vigil Saturday morning outside the building at 1000 W. Second St., almost eight months after a ribbon cutting celebration gave the public a first glimpse at the facility. The center’s opening has been complicated by operations changing hands, turnover in leadership, delays at the state level as the state transitions to a new mental health care model and more.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center CEO Patrick Schmitz and others provided an update for the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday. They said they hoped to present a final agreement for the center’s operations during the commission’s meeting on Wednesday, April 5. In the meantime, there may also be updates to the commission during their meetings on March 15 or 22.

The commissioners will be making all decisions regarding the operation and leasing of the TRC during their public meetings, according to the update.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Bill Wood led the group’s first prayer, which focused on the three Douglas County commissioners, Patrick Kelly, Shannon Reid, and Karen Willey.
Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

After each led prayer, the group walked a lap around the Treatment and Recovery Center.

They circled the building seven times as the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho in the Bible, praying for different aspects of the community affecting the Treatment and Recovery Center with each lap.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

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Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Robin Wood prayed for Bert Nash employees and all who walk through the center’s doors.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Belinda Davis led a prayer for Plinsky, Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, and other county staff who help them.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Ann Spangler led a prayer for Schmitz, Stephen O’Neill, Bert Nash’s chief operations officer, and Bert Nash staff.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times
Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Steve Ozark led the group in prayer for Andy Brown and the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services to help complete the policies necessary to open the TRC.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Judy Pope, right, led the group’s fifth prayer, which was for the police officers who interact with people in crisis.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

The sixth prayer was led by Bob Trepinski, who prayed for the TRC staff, director, nurses, therapists and others.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times
Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

Bill Wood led the closing prayer, which was for all people in crisis to feel safe coming to the TRC. He wants people in crisis to know that the TRC is a “safe place to come, where people care for them.”

He also prayed for the family members and other community members who may help people in crisis, prayed that people in crisis could be safely brought to the TRC rather than taken to jail, and prayed for more people to be trained to help people experiencing mental health crises and substance abuse.

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Molly Adams (she/her), photojournalist and news operations coordinator for The Lawrence Times, can be reached at molly (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Check out more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

— Reporter Mackenzie Clark contributed to this article.

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