TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – A regional behavioral health board has been meeting since September to bring a crisis center to the Magic Valley. Its plan received legislative support on Wednesday when the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee voted 16-2 to divert nearly $1.5 million to fund two new centers in the state – one of them slated for south-central Idaho.

“The expectation is that it’ll be enough to run the facility here for eight months until the center can get sustainable funding on its own,” said South Central Public Health Director Rene LeBlanc, one of the community partners involved. “It’s supposed to be fully funded by fiscal year 2018. That’s a year away; a lot could happen between now and then.”

Construction on the center won’t begin until December, he said, but there’s a lot that has to happen before then, which includes working closely with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and other parties. LeBlanc visited the Behavioral Health Center in Idaho Falls, which serves as a model for the one to be built in the Magic Valley, and in June he’ll visit Idaho State-Adult Mental Health Services in Lewiston.

LeBlanc said because the facility will serve at-risk people in the region with a mental crisis, it likely will be located in one of the valley’s hubs such as Twin Falls or Jerome, though a site has not yet been selected.

Twin Falls Deputy City Manager Brian Pike said even if the center landed in Twin Falls it is still a regional effort and involves a number of players. The second center JFAC approved funding for on Wednesday will be located in Region 4, likely in Boise.

Establishing a center in Region 5, or south-central Idaho, will be a positive thing for the community, LeBlanc said, for both taxpayers and those who need help getting through a mental crisis.

“Whenever a person is incarcerated there is a cost involved versus a facility that could defuse the situation and the expense,” he said. “Patients could stay at the crisis center for 23 minutes and 59 seconds. It is an opportunity to divert from an expensive emergency room visit or an incarceration.”

“When we encounter someone dealing with mental crisis, we have limited options. A crisis center provides additional resources,” Pike added. “What we’ve found over the years is that a person in crisis – about 75 percent of people in the moment of crisis – works themselves out of the crisis within 24 hours.” Staying at a center can help an at-risk person get through those crucial 24 hours.

There are plenty of challenges still to overcome before the region has a viable crisis center; one of the main ones is establishing long-term funding. Legislative funding will help the center get off the ground, but sustainable funding will keep it open.

“I’ve been asked, ‘What will it look like, what’s the funding mechanism?’ There are so many hurdles that we’re just taking it one step at a time,” Pike said. “It’d be a mistake to bring a resource like this to the community and not have a plan to sustain it. Money from the state is a great way to get it started, but we need to have the means to sustain it once it’s here.”