Panel sees need for detox center

Panel sees need for detox center

URBANA — Area mental health and law enforcement leaders agree there is a need to establish a facility to help people with mental health and/or substance abuse problems who encounter police.

"Our inmates are becoming sicker and sicker," Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said. "They are coming to us with mental health issues and substance abuse problems."

"We need to make sure these people get opportunities for appropriate treatment," said Champaign County Mental Health Board Director Peter Tracy.

Walsh and Tracy were part of a panel that spoke to 110 people Wednesday night at Urbana's Brookens Center during a forum on diverting people from incarceration.

Chief Deputy Allen Jones said the sheriff's office has identified 47 people who, over the course of 2014, were taken to jail five or more times.

Of those repeat offenders, 31 also received services from Community Elements.

"These people generally don't stay in jail for very long, but they cycle through," Jones said. "By continuing to cycle through, they are eating up resources and aren't getting any better."

University of Illinois police Officer Brian Tison said data from the Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul and UI police departments and the sheriff's office identified 1,687 police contacts in 2014 with people suffering behavioral issues ranging from excited delirium to suicidal situations.

"If you want to know what your 21st-century social worker will look like, look at the people with badges," Tison said.

Tison and Jones said police currently have only three viable options for dealing with people with mental health or substance abuse issues:

— Taking them to a hospital emergency room.

— Taking them to jail.

— Leaving them in their current environment.

Tracy said it is time to consider a fourth option: establishing a Detox Crisis Stabilization Center in the county.

"It would be a medical detoxification facility that also has crisis stabilization," Tracy said. "They would take people who need detoxification and also people who need to be stabilized psychiatrically," Tracy said.

How would it be funded?

"We have the ability to redirect money, and we have the capability to borrow money," Tracy said.

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