Have a question about the jail configuration and expansion plan or the vision for an integrated system to provide mental health care and substance use disorder services? Read our Frequently Asked Questions.
- Why do we need a bigger jail?
When the current jail was designed in the mid 1990’s, we were projected to run out of space in 2010. In addition to severe overcrowding, the Sheriff’s Office has also advised that they need a different configuration of space to better serve the needs of inmates – especially women and those who might have a medical issue, mental illness or substance use disorder. A different configuration of space is also needed for the classification of those coming into the jail and the jail’s nationally recognized reentry programs. Research shows that access to these types of programs and resources can reduce recidivism.
- Why is funding for the jail and crisis center in the same ballot question?
The proposed half cent sales tax is sufficient funding to finance both the construction costs of the jail re-modeling and expansion and the construction and operation costs of a new mental illness and substance use disorder crisis center and supportive housing and programming. The county has funded multiple, unrelated projects and programs from a single funding source in the past and this is no different.
- Are the jail and crisis center linked?
Only by their funding source. Although jails across the country are seeing a rise in the number of individuals who are suffering from a mental illness or substance use disorder, the crisis center is a voluntary facility and not an alternative to incarceration. This plan allows the county to serve people no matter where they are.
- Why are the jail and crisis center being funded by a sales tax?
It was estimated that the property tax increase needed to fund both programs would be too burdensome on home owners, especially those on a fixed income. A sales tax allows for the collection of funds beyond Douglas County residents.
- By placing both proposals in the same ballot question, does it imply that those suffering from mental illness are dangerous?
Absolutely not. It simply means that funding both priorities will come from the same revenue source.
- Why is the County spending so much money on mental health and substance use disorder programs?
Working with stakeholders in mental illness and substance use disorders, the County quickly realized there are insufficient services for those suffering from a mental illness or substance use disorder, in part due to the decrease in funding from the state. Douglas County is committed to the health and welfare of all of its citizens and dedicating funds to mental illness and substance use disorder programming, including a crisis center and transitional housing, reflects the priorities of the Board of County Commissioners.
- Is a crisis center important to treating individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders in Douglas County?
Yes. If the County wants to support an integrated system that focuses on intervention, recovery and prevention, a crisis center is an integral part of that system. However, equally important is all of the other programming and support to help individuals avoid experiencing a crisis episode.
- How much will the jail plan cost?
The County Commission has approved a $44 million dollar construction plan for the jail. It is estimated that the County will gradually spend $6 million more on jail operations, including hiring more correctional officers.
- How much will the crisis center and other mental health and substance use disorder programming cost?
The crisis center and supportive housing is a proposed $11 million dollar campus and the county expects it will cost approximately $5 million each year to support mental illness and substance use disorder programming.
- What happens if the ballot measure fails?
Providing a safe and humane jail is a statutory obligation of the county. Providing an integrated system of mental health and substance use disorder services is optional. If the ballot measure fails, the county will have to find an alternative way to finance the jail expansion and any plans for building a crisis center and supporting greater mental health and substance use disorder services will be shelved. Alternative financing for the jail could include a different revenue source such as a property tax or drastically cutting other services to pay-as-you-go for construction costs or, most likely, a combination of both.
The purpose of this information is to educate the public. We encourage all Douglas County residents to learn more in order to make an informed decision about these issues.