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South Bend Approved Funding For Mental Health Resource Center

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Community members filled the Dec 20 commissioners meeting when the funding was tabled.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller has announced that the city will step in to provide funds for a mental health crisis center in St. Joseph County. This comes in the aftermath of the St. Joseph County Commissioners tabling approval to appropriate funds for the center during their Dec. 20 meeting.

According to Mueller, the city will receive $2.66 million dollars in American Rescue Plan funds to start development for the project in partnership with Oaklawn Psychiatric Center. This was the plan for the funds even before the tabling by the county commissioners. Mueller says Oaklawn has been pivotal in finding the proof that this type of model for the crisis center will work.

“We're excited about the partners and the enthusiasm behind establishing the center and believe it will fill some critical gaps here in our community,” Mayor Mueller said.

The original plan was to get the county commissioners to approve the funding for Oaklawn. Once that was approved, then the city would use the funds from the American Rescue Plans for the crisis center. But since the funding was tabled, the city decided to switch up the plans.

“The only thing that's changed because of the tabling is we have moved from funding years, two and three of the center to the first year in the build out,” Mueller said.

This plan is two years in the making. Police Chief of Police Scott Ruszkowski says he had been recognizing the gaps in mental health support and response within police departments. Dr. Bob Einterz, Health officer for St. Joseph County Health Department, started coordinating the effort for the health department to create funds for the center.

Discussion of this kind of crisis center rose back to the surface after the July 29 shooting of Dante Kitrell. The fatal shooting ended a 40 minute standoff between Kitrell and South Bend Police Department's SWAT team.

Health departments, faith leaders and police departments have worked together to find a proper response to addressing mental health response gaps in the community. But the commissioner tabling the approval put a snag in those plans, nearly setting back the plans for the center by two years.

After the county commissioner meeting on December 20th, faith leaders like Rebecca Go were ‘extraordinarily upset’ that the plans were nearly ruined.

“We not only lost one step, we went back multiple steps. And so we actually have to start all over,” said Go.

Go said that because the commissioners did not approve the appropriation of funds, the process nearly starts over.

She is glad that the city decided to start appropriate funds so the plans can move forward. But, Go says she is still nervous about the center’s future.

“I'm also somewhat nervous that people forget how important it is that the county continues to live up to what it said it would contribute,” she said.

Rachel Schnelle is a Reporter/Assignment editor for WVPE. She can be reached at reschnelle@wvpe.org.
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