Behavioral health correctional facility proposed

Inmates with mental illness and substance addiction would be treated in a special facility in Hastings under a bill advanced from general file March 26.

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, LB999 initially was drafted to make administrative changes to Nebraska’s criminal justice system to revise its focus from incarceration to transitioning offenders to re-enter the community.

Hastings Sen. Les Seiler brought an amendment, adopted 30-0, which replaced a proposed Judiciary Committee amendment and became the bill.

As amended, LB999 would authorize the state Department of Health and Human Services to study the feasibility of establishing a behavioral health center at the site of the former Hastings Regional Center. The department would provide the governor, by Dec. 15, a program statement that examines:
• long-term needs of mentally ill and substance addicted inmates;
• renovating or building facilities for up to 200 inmates at the center;
• criteria for inmates to be placed in the center;
• programs needed to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment; and
• estimated costs of building renovation, staffing, operation and a proposed project schedule.

Ashford said the bill would address the challenges faced by the state Department of Correctional Services in rehabilitating mentally ill inmates for release back into the community

“Failure to treat mental illness … can have very dangerous repercussions,” he said.

Seiler said Hastings is especially suited to host an inmate rehabilitation facility because it would be supported by the mental health staff at Mary Lanning Healthcare.

Following adoption of the amended committee amendment, senators advanced the bill to select file on a 38-0 vote.

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