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Gov. Sanders, DHS announce $30 million plan for mental health, substance abuse, crisis response

The office of the Arkansas Department of Human Service in Little Rock.
The office of the Arkansas Department of Human Service in Little Rock.

From Talk Business & Politics:

Gov. Sarah Sanders and the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Tuesday (Feb. 13) a comprehensive plan to invest $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to improve mental health and substance abuse services across the state through a variety of initiatives, including a statewide coordinated crisis response system.

Sanders approved the plan earlier this month, and the Arkansas Legislative Council’s (ALC) Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) Subcommittee approved the funding Tuesday. The full ALC committee will consider the proposal on Friday.

“The mental health and substance abuse crises in this country are layered. If we’re going to tackle them, our efforts will have to be layered too,” said Sanders. “I’m proud to announce Arkansas’ plan to address these issues head-on, including a statewide coordinated crisis response system. This will help us fill the gaps in our current efforts and ensure struggling Arkansans get the help they need.”

“It’s critical that resources are available to support Arkansans who are struggling with substance use disorders or mental illness, especially in times of crisis,” said Arkansas Department of Human Services Secretary Kristi Putnam. “This plan invests in areas that can help prevent situations from escalating to crisis level, and also builds more of a continuum of care where we currently have gaps in support. We are grateful for the priority Gov. Sanders and the Legislature have placed on this need and look forward to engaging community partners and stakeholders as we deploy these funds.”

The statewide crisis response system will include:

  • A 24-hour call center that will allow first responders to use tablets to connect individuals in crisis with clinicians;
  • Creation of mobile crisis teams;
  • New training for EMT, police, and other first responders on telehealth, and patient evaluation; and
  • Software to better connect health care and emergency response entities around the state.

To address needs with the mental health illness and intellectual/development disabilities, the plan includes:

  • Community re-integration programs for children;
  • Youth substance abuse residential treatment programs;
  • Adult substance abuse residential treatment programs;
  • Supportive housing for adults with mental illness to help prevent homelessness, incarceration, and institutionalization; and
  • Supportive housing to prevent homelessness, incarceration, and institutionalization for youth and young adults leaving state custody from foster care or the juvenile justice system.

Sanders said the ARPA funding announced Tuesday is one element of a broader plan the administration is developing to complete the health continuum of care for individuals with mental health needs, intellectual disabilities, or physical disabilities, and those Arkansans who are elderly and aging.
This larger plan, to be released at a later date, will outline DHS’ initiatives that focus on prevention through crisis to recovery or stability, the governor’s office said.

This story comes from the staff of Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with KUAR News. You can hear the weekly program on Mondays at 6:06 p.m.