Idaho Senate OKs plan for mental health centers

The legislation would provide more options besides jail and the ER.


A bill outlining plans for behavioral health crisis centers in Idaho Falls, Coeur d'Alene and Boise passed 28-6 after about 45 minutes of debate. The legislation now moves to the House.

"We're setting policy for a path for our future for mental health crisis (treatment) in the state," said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. "We do not have a good path now. This is just the beginning; this is a small part."

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, was one of six lawmakers who voted against the bill. He said the bill's language is too broad and does not spell out how the facilities and their funding would be established.

"My concern is not with the need, it's instead with the mechanics," he said.

Mortimer also said he is concerned that state-funded facilities would compete with private groups that offer similar services.

Along with the policy legislation, the state Department of Health and Welfare has outlined a 2015 budget request that includes more than $5.1 million to secure and renovate facilities as well as operating costs of $4.56 million.

Gov. Butch Otter proposed the crisis centers in his State of the State address and recommended the money in his budget. The funding for the centers must be approved by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and the full Legislature.

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