Idaho Department of Correction withdraws plan to build mental health facility
The Idaho Department of Correction has decided against seeking renewed legislative approval for a plan to finance a 579-bed secure mental health facility by bonding for the $70 million construction cost, according to an IDOC news release.
The plan, supported by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, prompted questions from legislators and the public about the project’s ongoing costs and other mental and substance abuse-related health priorities facing the state.
After a thorough review of the estimated $25 million annual operating and bond payment costs, Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke decided to withdraw the proposal while the agency works with the Department of Health and Welfare, the courts, the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission and other stakeholders on developing a plan for addressing broader issues, IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray said.
“This is not to say that the need is any less for corrections; it is to say that a systemic approach is needed for behavioral health services statewide,” Reinke said. “Improvements to behavioral services, both in Idaho communities and inside state correctional facilities, will be at the heart of this plan.”
“I appreciate Director Reinke’s responsiveness, and I’m grateful that he and Director Armstrong are working collaboratively to address our broader priorities as a state,” Governor Otter said. “A secure mental health facility certainly is needed. But such an investment must be considered in the context of our limited resources and our evolving behavioral health environment.”
The Legislature first authorized $70 million to build a secure mental health facility in 2008, but the project was put on hold as a result of the economic downturn which hit later that year.
(photo: courtesy Idaho Department of Correction)