KY “Living Room” Program An Alternative to Jail

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The police calls sound typical but the solution is fairly novel, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. There’s the disheveled man at the gas station who won’t leave, a woman on a cold street corner shouting with herself, or an intoxicated person swaying worryingly close to the street. Jail might sound like the safest place for them, so they’re arrested on a minor charge or dropped off at a hospital. Or maybe there’s no crime and the officer has to leave them on their own. Now there’s another option. The Living Room Program offers help for people with a mental illness or substance abuse problem. “The purpose here isn’t to force anything on anybody,” said program manager Stephany Pond. “It’s to let them know there’s a different way of doing things.”

By diverting people from jails or hospitals, program leaders hope to see cost savings – anywhere from $70 to $1,000 a day per person – not to mention treatment that stabilizes those in crisis and addresses long-term recovery needs. Similar models have proved successful in other states such as Delaware and Illinois. Nonprofit mental health organization Centerstone is running the program, funded in part by taxes, which is expected to serve about two dozen people each day. The 24/7 space is staffed by peer specialists, heavily trained staff who are actively recovering from mental illness or substance abuse disorders. The living room is intended as a calm, quiet, nonclinical space where visitors will have access to counselors and connection to housing, health care and mental health help. It’s voluntary, so people can leave as they please and stay up to 23 hours. Police support was critical for the launch of the program. Centerstone has assured police it won’t turn away those who officers police bring and the drop-off process will be speedy.

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