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story.lead_photo.caption A view inside Friday, June 14, 2019, during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Stabilization Unit in Fayetteville. - Photo by Ben Goff

FAYETTEVILLE -- Officials expect to open the Crisis Stabilization Unit on Monday, a week later than announced earlier this month, the unit's director said.

Kristen McAllister, director of crisis stabilization services, said the opening was delayed because required items designed to keep people from harming themselves haven't yet arrived. The state's Department of Behavioral Health Services cannot license the building as a behavioral health facility until it receives those items, McAllister said.

Police officers can take people who they suspect have mental health problems to the unit instead of jail. Staying at the 16-bed facility will be voluntary with a maximum stay of three days.

Officials said earlier this month the unit would open Monday.

The unit is part of the state's pilot program to open four units to divert people with mental health problems away from the criminal justice system. The program will monitor the units in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Little Rock and Jonesboro through June 2021 and use the information to evaluate the effectiveness of the facilities. The state is paying for the operating costs of the facilities once local governments provide a location to house the operation. The Fort Smith and Little Rock centers opened in 2018. The Jonesboro center is set to open in September.

Washington County set aside $250,000 to renovate the old juvenile detention center downtown. The state earmarked about $6.4 million in operating costs for the program, about $1.4 million for each of the four units open or opening.

Kathryn Griffin, justice reinvestment coordinator with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office, said the center will be staffed around the clock with at least one registered nurse and other mental health professionals on site. Psychiatrists and counselors will be available within 20 minutes on an on-call basis. Individuals will have the chance to receive immediate treatment and be directed to other resources in the community.

NW News on 06/25/2019

Print Headline: Crisis stabilization unit delays opening

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