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New state hospital only one of a number of issues in behavioral health

The chairman of a Legislative interim committee originally tasked with looking at the need for a new state hospital says the committee’s charge expanded – and it looked at the needs for behavioral health services across the state.

"The need for treatment and behavioral health and addiction is in a crisis situation," said Rep. Jon Nelson (R-Rugby), the chairman of the interim Acute Psychiatric Treatment Committee. "There's no real silver bullet in how we address this."

Nelson said it will be addressed from an institutional setting, from an out-patient setting, and from a workforce standpoint.

"There are so many areas where we have needs, that need to be addressed as soon as possible," Nelson said.

That means a number of issues could be before the 2023 Legislature.

"We're not going to get to the end of the road in two years," Nelson said. "I can guarantee you that."

Nelson said he also supports legislation that would put “measurement tools” in place, to track the state’s progress is expanding behavioral health options.

State Hospital future

The Committee recommended construction of a new State Hospital.

It would remain in Jamestown. But the location within Jamestown could be changed.

Right now, it shares grounds with the James River Correctional Center. And Nelson said at the end of the 2021 Legislative Session, there was talk of moving it to the area of the Jamestown Regional Medical Center and the Anne Carlson Center. But Nelson said the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation makes a compelling case for the need for treatment at the JRCC.

"They (Dept. of Corrections) would end up taking the LaHaug building, and would turn that into DOCR's authority," Nelson said.

Nelson also said if the decision was made that the state Hospital would stay on that same campus, it would be moved away from the JRCC.

"There would be more of a background that wasn't as institutional, or secure, as the DOCR's needs for security," Nelson said.

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