Sarpy County and Nebraska Medicine officials have agreed to explore the creation of a mental health crisis center at the Bellevue Medical Center.

The agreement, approved by the Sarpy County Board on Tuesday, is essentially a promise by both partners to continue discussing the possibility of working together on the center. It makes no financial or staffing commitments.

In late August, Nebraska Medicine officials signaled that they were prioritizing building a similar center at the medical system’s campus on 42nd Street in Omaha as opposed to one in Sarpy County.

Dr. Howard Liu, chairman of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said at the time that Nebraska Medicine leaders had determined that the health system, given limited resources, should focus first on Douglas County with its greater volume of patients. The health system did acknowledge that it was still in discussions with the county.

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Dan Hoins, the Sarpy County administrator, said in an interview Tuesday that the county is supportive of Nebraska Medicine’s plans for its Omaha campus and hopes to be able to use the center when it opens, which is anticipated to be in spring or summer 2020.

But the need for mental health services, Hoins said, exists in the entire metro area.

“Best case scenario is to have one (in both counties),” Hoins said of possible mental health facilities.

Taylor Wilson, a Nebraska Medicine spokesman, provided the following statement:

“Our (agreement) with Sarpy County keeps moving this important conversation forward. While it’s too early to say what form a psychiatric emergency service could take in Sarpy County, we’re committed to being a resource and part of the solution for the mental health needs of the community.”

The county has been seeking a partner to operate a mental health crisis center because of what officials have characterized as a mental health crisis in the area. The County Jail, which is typically above its capacity, often holds people experiencing a mental health crisis who would be better served by a crisis center, county leaders have said.

Sarpy County has earmarked $1 million for construction costs associated with the facility.

Don Kelly, chairman of the Sarpy County Board, said the county will continue working to secure its own mental health facility.

“We’re going to keep the pressure on (Nebraska Medicine) until they provide psychiatric emergency services in Sarpy County,” Kelly said.

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reece.ristau@owh.com, 402-444-1127

@reecereports

Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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