St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners delays signing contract for mental health crisis center

NOW: St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners delays signing contract for mental health crisis center

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners delayed signing a contract to implement a mental health crisis response center at its regular meeting, Monday morning.

The center was proposed by the St. Joseph County Department of Health, the City of South Bend, and Oaklawn.

According to Board President Carl Baxmeyer, the project is expected to cost over $5.5 million to build and operate for three years.

The project is not fully funded and could cost taxpayers an additional $900,000 to operate every year after the initial three years, he said.  

"We want to ensure that this process is not rushed and is well thought out," said Baxmeyer. "The money to fund the project is not being taken away however we would like to ensure that there is sufficient funding to ensure that the program endures far into the future."

Advocates in favor of the center worry the delay will put the center's future in jeopardy. In a press release sent to ABC57 following the meeting, Faith in Indiana, an advocacy group made up of local religious leaders that's called for greater mental health resources, said "Lives will be lost as a result of this decision."

"We are deeply disappointed with the decision of the Commissioner today to block funding for a crisis response center," Rev. Chip Roush of First Unitarian Church said in the release. "Their disregard for the needs of our family members in crisis is deeply disturbing."

Opposition included South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski. SBPD posted his comments on its Facebook page, saying a crisis center could help with the department's more than 900 mental health-related calls each year.

“The police [are and have been] begging for help to take these things out of our hands that we, as police, should not be dealing with,” Chief Ruszkowski said.

The board of commissioners wants a number of questions answered prior to finalizing a plan, such as whether state funding will support the project, if funding will be available to maintain the project after the first three years, and if additional services can be added to the project once it's implemented.

County commissioners said the City of South Bend has not sent a written commitment detailing how much money will be put toward the program and for how long.  

Share this article: