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Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center on track for phase 1 opening next month

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The county is on a timeline to bring a final operating agreement for the Douglas County Treatment & Recovery Center to the county commission early next month, with the center to partially open soon thereafter, staff said Wednesday.

The center, at 1000 W. Second St., held a ribbon cutting celebration to give the public a first glimpse at the facility in June 2022. Its opening has been complicated by operations changing handsturnover in leadership, delays at the state level as the state transitions to a new mental health care model and more.

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Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center announced their intention to take over management of the TRC during a December 2022 Douglas County Commission meeting. After a few more months of frequent meetings between county and Bert Nash staff members, the finish line is finally approaching.

“I believe we’re on this timeline; I think we’re making progress toward making these deliverables,” Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said Wednesday.

A detailed presentation shared during the meeting includes many details on responsibilities and expectations, plus a timeline of opening phases:

20230322-Update-on-DgCo-TRC

“We wanted to just sort of outline and clarify what is our shared understanding of how we’re going to work in this space,” said Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects.

Tryanski said they hope to have a final operating agreement and lease to bring to the commissioners for approval during their April 5 meeting. Patrick Schmitz, CEO of Bert Nash, said he was confident in the timeline dates, also.

If all goes as planned, the center’s urgent care unit will open for walk-ins for 12 hours a day on weekdays and four hours a day on weekends on April 10. Services in that phase will include assessments, medication evaluations and prescriptions, referrals and more.

By May 25, the Observation and Stabilization Unit would be open 24/7 with a capacity of 10 patients. That would expand to 16 patients, including involuntary patients, by July 17, and to 24 patients by Oct. 7, according to the timeline.

Dr. Cord Huston, interim medical director for the TRC, said the center will only be able to accept patients 18 and older; however, if a child or teen is in crisis, they can still come to the TRC and receive an urgent care screening. But the TRC would not be able to hold people younger than 18.

“We can’t actually allow children, 6-, 7-, 8-year-old children to be in a population of people who are adults that are struggling,” he said.

Commission Chair Patrick Kelly said he was concerned that more and more young people will show up to the TRC needing help.

“We’ve got to step up and figure out how to help them as well,” he said. “Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come today, but we still have work to do.”

Tryanski said there had been some questions from the public about how the TRC would handle patient complaints and grievances. Amy Finkeldei, senior director of performance and quality improvement at Bert Nash, was on hand to explain the center’s feedback process.

Complaints can be made via an online form (available at this link), via email to feedback@bertnash.org, or dropped in one of the center’s locked boxes in person. They can be anonymous, and complaining parties can choose how they want to be contacted.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Amy Finkeldei, standing at left, senior director of performance and quality improvement at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, speaks to Douglas County commissioners during their March 22, 2023 meeting.

“Once the individual has had the opportunity to share what they would like, then we proceed down a path of involving other parties based on how that individual — what they’re seeking as far as a desired outcome,” Finkeldei said. “Most frequently, it involves talking with another director within the organization or sometimes another supervisor or manager, based on what it is, so we handle each one individually.”

The center has 30 days to achieve a resolution, but once they receive a complaint, they usually respond within 24-48 hours and work toward resolution, she said.

All complaint situations are reviewed at the clinical directors meeting, where staff talk about standards of care and evaluate whether that standard was met. Data on complaints is also aggregated for analysis, she said.

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Kelly asked if the center does feedback collection automatically after patient visits, via a text message or email. Finkeldei said the center currently does annual client satisfaction surveys, but that she was talking to a team member today about what could occur to get more immediate feedback from TRC patients.

Commissioner Shannon Reid reflected on the June 23, 2022 ribbon cutting, which she said has become “a little bit of an infamous day” in her own history.

“There was so much excitement about getting to this space of, we have a building, and we can tangibly see what we intend to do in this community and what taxpayers asked to fund in our community for generations to come,” she said. “And it was an exciting moment. And after that, I think there was just a real sea of realization for a lot of folks throughout the community, for us here at the county and with our partners, that we weren’t entirely ready.”

She said there has been a lot of pain about the time it’s taken to get to this point, and the county isn’t at the finish line yet, but there has been substantial progress made, and she’s pleased to be in a space with more transparency and accountability.

The Douglas County Commission will next meet on Wednesday, March 29, starting with a 4 p.m. work session on a housing and homelessness strategic plan. The final contract for the TRC should be on the commission’s Wednesday, April 5 meeting agenda.

Meeting information is available on the county’s website at this link.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center on track for phase 1 opening next month

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The county is on a timeline to bring a final operating agreement for the Douglas County Treatment & Recovery Center to the county commission early next month, with the center to partially open soon thereafter, staff said Wednesday.

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