Government

Johnson County Board of Supervisors accepts $6.4 million bid for access center

Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rod Sullivan speaks in a Board of Supervisors work session in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. (Gazette photo)
Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rod Sullivan speaks in a Board of Supervisors work session in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. (Gazette photo)

IOWA CITY — The Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday accepted the construction bid for the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, clearing the way for construction to begin as early as next month.

Matt Miller, project manager for the center, said the low bid came from Cedar Rapids-based Merit Construction. The total bid of $6,424,700 for construction and solar panels is less than the anticipated cost of $6.9 million.

“In their bid, they agreed to achieve substantial completion of the work before Oct. 1, 2020,” Miller said in an email to The Gazette.

The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center will be built at 270 Southgate Ave. in Iowa City. It feature sobering and crisis stabilization units, and a low-barrier shelter that will not require that people to be sober in order to be admitted.

The crisis center is the latest in a yearslong shift in how law enforcement in Johnson County is addressing people they encounter who are experiencing a mental crisis.

Local law enforcement agencies began sending personnel to San Antonio, Texas, in May 2015 to be trained in crisis intervention, a discipline that emphasizes recognizing when a person is having a mental health issue and de-escalating the situation.

Johnson County has begun offering crisis intervention training to other officers in the state.

However, officers and deputies in Johnson County still have only two options on where to take someone experiencing a mental health crisis — jail or the hospital. San Antonio is home to the Restoration Center, which includes sobering, detoxification and mental health units. Haven for Hope, a homeless shelter that offers education and employment services, is across the street.

Local officials have been working toward adopting the San Antonio model since 2017.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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