Mental health facility aims to reduce incarceration rates in northwest Arkansas

FOX24
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After several delays, Washington County’s new mental health facility aims to reduce incarceration in northwest Arkansas. 

“A jail is not a good place to go if you’re in the midst of a mental health crisis,” said Washington County Attorney, Brian Lester.

The new crisis stabilization unit in Fayetteville has been in the works for several months. Lester said it will give law enforcement another option when they encounter people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

“They may not have committed a major crime. A lot of times it was disorderly conduct,” Lester said.

Going to the CSU is voluntary for people experiencing mental health episodes.

“If you agree to go and you agree to go in and get treatment, we won’t charge you with a crime,” Lester said.

Residents will be able to get the mental health services not offered in jail, like counseling and medications.

There are 16 beds in the facility which may not seem like much. But Lester said the goal is to get people in and out within 72 hours which frees up space for the people that need it.

“This was originally a juvenile detention center,” said Washington County Buildings and Ground Director, Dwight Gonzales. He said extra care was taken to make sure future residents are safe.

“There are special shower heads, sinks, and handles to make it less likely for them to be able to hurt themselves here,” Gonzales said.

Lester said in addition to helping people with mental health issues, the CSU will help relieve overcrowding happening in both the Washington and Benton county jails.

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