One year in, officials and directors are pleased with the results of the Five West Crisis Stabilization Unit.
CSU opened at the beginning of March 2018 with the goal of diverting the mentally ill from jail to treatment. Since then, the facility has taken in 786 people — most of whom were referred to the facility by a hospital, law enforcement or the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center.
"We’ve been able to help a lot of people," said CSU Program Director Joey Potts.
CSU is utilized by law enforcement and healthcare professionals in Sebastian, Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Scott and Polk counties.
Of the people seen at CSU, 226 were referred by a hospital, 178 were from law enforcement and 156 were from the Guidance Center. Fifty-six were from the Riverview Hope Campus while 170 came from other places, according to records.
"It’s not a catch-all, it’s not the be-all, do-all. It’s not the one great answer — we know that. It’s an additional tool that the local law enforcement officers have at their disposal to say, 'We can do this, or we can put somebody in jail. We can help a person to get help so that they don’t become repeat offenders so that they’re not in the emergency rooms repeatedly,'" Potts said. "When we decrease recidivism in the emergency room and in the jail, we accomplish our purpose."
"Everything I’ve heard up to this point has been positive," said District 77 state Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith. Boyd is one of five public officials who pushed for the CSU to open.
Potts said CSU officials in the future would like to streamline some of their processes to continually improve their relationship with law enforcement. This would build off CSU officials reducing the average time officers spend inside the facility to 15 minutes apiece.
While any law enforcement officer can bring someone to CSU, Potts said Crisis Intervention-trained officers usually bring more people to the facility. Arkansas Act 423, which included the creation of CSU, requires every law enforcement agency in the state to eventually have 20 percent of its officers certified in Crisis Intervention Training.
Though CSU operates as intended and Crisis Intervention certification for law enforcement agencies is moving right along, local officials would like to see the Act 423 mandate for a mental health court fulfilled, Boyd said. He said County Judge David Hudson and circuit judges are looking for a grant to implement the mental health court.
But in the meantime, Boyd said he is happy with CSU.
"It’s making sure we get people to the right place," Boyd said.