The Sarpy County Board has canceled its attempt to purchase land near the southeast corner of 25th Street and Highway 370 for the purpose of building a mental health facility.

County Board Chairman Don Kelly announced in a news release Thursday that the county was abandoning its effort to build a “stand-alone” treatment facility and would instead partner with “other organizations in our community.”

“From the beginning, we wanted to remain flexible enough to accommodate any and all good ideas for the crisis stabilization center,” he said. “We are close to formalizing a partnership that has shifted our focus away from a stand-alone facility to one built in conjunction with other organizations in our community.

“We believe this option will better serve the needs of Sarpy County as well as the goals of our partners.”

The news release did not specify who the partners might be, though county commissioners have said repeatedly they are involved in ongoing negotiations with Nebraska Medicine-Bellevue about building a mental health facility on their existing campus at the southwest corner of 25th Street and Highway 370.

The board’s announcement in February that it was considering building on an empty lot near the southeast corner of 25th Street and Highway 370 drew a prompt protest from Bellevue Mayor Rusty Hike, who said the site was one of Bellevue’s few remaining corners available for revenue-generating commercial development.

Any county building located there would be tax-exempt.

When the Bellevue City Council voted 5-1 on April 22 to oppose the location but not the project, the county board’s task grew more difficult. The City Council also held the trump card that the location would need a zoning change, something council members were unlikely to grant.

Kelly said the county received “hundreds of calls, emails and messages of support as well as first-hand accounts from individuals and families struggling with mental health issues,” after announcing its intention to build a mental health crisis center.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Kelly said. “People recognize that we’re dealing with a crisis, and they’re happy to see Sarpy take a leadership role.”

Treating persons suffering from mental health problems has become a county priority in recent years as such people have increasingly been booked into the county jail or deposited in hospital emergency rooms due to the lack of a facility dedicated to their needs.

“We cannot sit idly by while our jails and emergency rooms serve as de facto mental health wards,” Kelly said. “We earmarked a million dollars to purchase land for the stabilization center, so that’s money we can put toward the facility itself.

“With the help of Region 6 and other community partners, we’ll be able to help people from across the region who are experiencing mental health crises.”

The treatment center will be available to all law enforcement agencies in the Region 6 service area, which encompasses Sarpy, Cass, Douglas, Washington and Dodge counties.

Region 6 is a coalition of agencies providing behavioral services.

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