Benton-Franklin Human Services has received the go-ahead from both counties to move its office for mental health services to a new location. Benton County commissioners approved the move Tuesday, and Franklin County followed suit Wednesday.
Human Services director Ed Thornbrugh will negotiate a lease for the department's Crisis Response Unit at 500 N. Morain St. in Kennewick. The unit provides grief counseling, emergency assistance with psychiatric medication and crisis intervention, among other services.
The new office will be in the same location as other programs the agency offers, such as addiction and referral services, Thornbrugh said. That will allow counselors to offer a variety of services in one place.
"There's no wrong door," Thornbrugh said. "We can send them where we need to."
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Moving to the new location from the current building off Highway 395 and Clearwater Avenue will add about $7,000 a year to the human services budget, Thornbrugh said. That money can be accommodated within the existing budget without the need for additional funding from the counties.
The unit performed 258 face-to-face evaluations in January 2013. Face-to-face evaluations are used when a person is considered an imminent danger to themselves, such as after emergency room treatment following a medication overdose. Before the patient can be released, they must talk with a mental health professional to make sure a safety plan is in place.
Franklin County commissioners also gave the go-ahead for human services to add four grant-funded positions to its coordinated entry program. Thornbrugh said the state grants will cover the positions for a year and six months, after which there is no guarantee they will be retained.
The coordinated entry program seeks to streamline the process for moving homeless people into housing by providing a single point of contact and a clearer process, Thornbrugh said. Commissioners also agreed to pay $50,000 in contingency funds to cover an overage in costs for the public defender's office brought on by the ongoing Tashia Stuart murder trial.
Franklin County Administrator Fred Bowen said it is likely the county will have to provide more money to assist Stuart's defense in the future.
"These are things that have to be done," Commission Chairman Rick Miller said. "I don't think we have much choice."
Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom