The Sebastian County Five West Crisis Stabilization Unit has been running smoothly so far.

Rusti Holwick, CEO of the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center in Fort Smith, said the CSU has had admissions since its Feb. 28 ribbon cutting. The facility is on the center's campus.

"The people have come in, and from what we're hearing from them, we're getting, good reports," Holwick said. "People are receiving treatment and being stabilized, and the staff are working very hard and very skillfully with everyone coming in."

Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said at the ribbon cutting the CSU would provide an option to local law enforcement officers and the local criminal justice system to divert the nondangerous and nonviolent with mental illness episodes from booking into county jails to short-term treatment and stability. It is the first CSU to open in Arkansas.

Holwick said Thursday four people had been diverted to the CSU at that point, with one of them leaving that day. The CSU has 16 beds. Holwick said the facility's processes are being refined.

The followup that Sebastian County is still engaged in, Hudson said, is formalizing an interlocal agreement between the six counties in the mental health catchment area regarding supporting the ongoing operations of the CSU. This catchment area includes Sebastian, Crawford, Logan, Franklin, Scott and Polk counties, as well as each of the cities in those counties.

Hudson said Sebastian County will be working with what it calls a CSU regional stakeholders roundable that will include the county judges, sheriffs, mayors and police chiefs of all the class one cities within those six counties.

"That group will have an oversight role," Hudson said. "We'll be meeting quarterly, initially, and then at least annually to oversee crisis stabilization unit operations with that group. Then, there will be a steering committee of health providers in the region, EMS and the counseling staff providing the services with law enforcement that, periodically, we'll pull those individuals together to discuss how they interact with one another in the utilization of the crisis stabilization unit, so that all will continue."

The interlocal agreement talks about how to cost-share in the event that the grant money and the reimbursement funds for the CSU leave any type of a funding gap, Hudson said. It is not certain at this time that a funding gap is going to exist.

"And in the agreement, as it's drafted, we're projecting at $5 a day per individual treated in the facility," Hudson said. "So that would be evaluated every year based on the actual cost. ... Of course, the grant revenues ... flow through Sebastian County, and then we'll have reports, regular reports monthly from the guidance and counseling center on the reimbursement revenues, so in recounciling those cash-flows, we will be aware of any potential gap in operational cost, and at this point, we could have estimated zero cost or a dollar a day. In preliminary discussions with the roundtable, we agreed to set that at $5 a day."  

In regard to who all is involved in the creation of the interlocal agreement, Hudson said he has been working with Holwick, Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue, Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck and Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken. The CSU regional stakeholders roundtable has also been involved.

"The model that we use was drafted by an attorney in Pulaski County, and they've moved forward with adoption, and they're one of the other four pilots," Hudson said.

Once the interlocal agreement has been finalized, Hudson said, it will be submitted to the Arkansas attorney general for approval. Once the attorney general approves the proposed agreement, Sebastian County will submit it to the quorum courts and city councils in the catchment area for adoption.

Hudson said Thursday the agreement is nearly ready to be sent to the attorney general, possibly this week.