Bert Nash, Housing Authority collaborate on housing project for people with mental illness
- on November 7, 2016
Bert Nash Center and Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority have a long history of working together.
The newest partnership between the two organizations involves plans to develop an eight-unit apartment building adjacent to a proposed crisis center, across from the Bert Nash Center, 200 Maine St.
“This is probably the strongest partnership between a community mental health center and a housing authority in the country,” Bert Nash Center CEO David Johnson said of the relationship between the two agencies. “We’ve worked together for years to ensure that there is housing for people in the community with serious mental illnesses. We were approached by the housing authority if we would consider this plan, and we said absolutely. Our expertise is providing mental health care; their expertise is providing housing and working with disadvantaged groups. This would be an example of each organization doing what they do best and coming together to the benefit of people in the community.”
Shannon Oury, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, said the plan for the apartment units fits in with the Housing Authority’s mission.
“The Housing Authority serves the full spectrum of housing needs from homelessness to home ownership, and sees as part of its mission to serve special populations,” Oury said. “When the proposed crisis center was being discussed, we recognized that for an optimal outcome for the individuals in that program there would need to be the opportunity to exit to a supportive environment. That will require new housing units for some of these individuals to have access to upon completion of the program.”
The apartment building plan is still in the early stages of development.
“This project is just starting and both agencies are committed to working with elected officials, city and county officials, and the community to have a transparent process to develop a housing project that meets the needs of individuals with mental illness and the community,” Oury said.
Plans for the housing unit are contingent on approval to move forward with a proposal for a 24/7 crisis intervention center, which is part of the Douglas County Commission’s overall strategy to expand mental health services in the community.
“If for some reason the crisis center is not approved, then we would need to figure out what’s the best use for the property,” Johnson said.
The plans for a crisis center include a detox facility, peer support counseling and an array of mental health services for adults in crisis. The crisis center would be located on the site of the former VFW building, which the Bert Nash Center owns. The Center donated the back half of the property to the city of Lawrence for the development of the Sandra J. Shaw Community Health Park. The park, named for the longtime CEO of the Bert Nash Center who died in 2010, was dedicated in October 2014. The housing unit would be located just east of the proposed crisis center.
“Both organizations (Bert Nash and the Housing Authority) believe this would be a very good use of resources,” Johnson said. “It would be a nice fit for what’s going on in that area.”