Part of proposed behavioral health campus moving forward despite voters' rejection

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Plans to build apartments at a proposed behavioral health campus are moving forward despite county voters' recent rejection. 

The Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority plans to build permanent housing for people with mental illness. 

"We know we have quite a big gap in Douglas County," said Shannon Oury, Executive Director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority. 

Currently, Douglas County does not have a mental health crisis center. Anyone seeking long-term help must travel outside the county. 

Plans for a behavioral health campus in Lawrence started in 2016. 

"To really have the best chance of a successful outcome, they need a stable place to live," said Oury. 

The proposed behavioral health campus would include a crisis center, temporary housing and permanent support housing for adults with mental illness. 

"We always have a waiting list of 15-20 people who are looking for this type of housing that we just don't have available," said Oury. 

On May 15, county voters rejected Proposition 1, a countywide half-cent sales tax that would fund a jail expansion, the behavioral health campus and additional behavioral health services. Oury said she believes it was voted down because of its tie to the jail. 

"I do believe our local officials will be really considering where do we go from here and how do we get this available," said Oury. 

The Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority is moving forward with plans to build the permanent housing units. The units will be built on 2nd Street near Lawrence Memorial Hospital. 

Oury said the units were not dependent on the passage of Proposition 1. She said they planned on using reserved funds from Housing and Urban Development Grants. 

"As soon as we get approval from HUD to use these funds this way, then we will start breaking ground and moving forward on that," said Oury. 

The Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority plans to break ground on the new units by the end of this year or early 2019. The Douglas County Commission is exploring options to move forward with plans to build the entire behavioral health campus. 

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