By Kim Brothers
Centerstone Kentucky (previously Seven Counties Services) has opened The Living Room, intended to be a safe, calming space for adults in crisis. Through the support of The Louisville Metro Council, in partnership with Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), Louisville Metro Department of Corrections and The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, Centerstone Kentucky hopes to divert up to 90 percent of people in crisis from jail, the emergency room or inpatient hospitalization.
The Living Room is a low key, compassionate, non-intrusive alternative location open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is located in downtown Louisville.
The idea was created and launched by CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together). CLOUT, a faith-based group, coordinated the first “Safe City Round Table” last year, with the goal of finding solutions to community problems, specifically related to mental health and addiction issues.
According to CLOUT, people in Louisville with mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to wind up in jail. People with addictions are 39 times more likely.
Peer support staff (persons with lived experience who have a mental illness or substance use disorder) welcome Living Room guests when they arrive, and during their visit, encourage them to connect to resources.
By diverting people in crisis from higher levels of care while providing connections to treatment programs, the Living Room aims to build a healthier community, while easing demand on police officers.
The Living Room is currently accepting guests by police escort only from all nine LMPD divisions, and additional small city police departments such as J-Town and St. Matthews.
Louisville Metro Police often find themselves on the front lines with people who are in need of what the Living Room can offer, said Police Chief Steve Conrad. “This partnership creates a much-needed resource for our community,” Conrad said. “Not everyone needs a jail cell or hospital bed and this will provide an opportunity to get clients the resources they need.”
Mark Bolton, director of Louisville Metro Corrections said it costs the jail between $200 and $300 to house one inmate with mental health issues for one day. It’s expected to cost less than $100 per day to care for one person at the Living Room. In the future, Metro Corrections leaders even hope to use the Living Room as a resource.
“What we hope to do is create a pathway from the jail to the Living Room for those who still end up in the local jail system that have mental health issues,” Bolton said.
The Louisville Metro Council provided Centerstone Kentucky with $325,000 to fund the Living Room for start-up costs and operating expenses for six months. Centerstone Kentucky plans to ask for additional funding.
Tony Zipple, Centerstone Kentucky’s president and CEO, says, “The Living Room is an innovative and compassionate response for our community. This new program, connects those in need to critical community resources, allowing up to 90 percent of people in crisis to be diverted from jail, ER departments or inpatient hospitalizations. It’s not very often that you have the opportunity to save money, improve public safety and do good work all at the same time.”
-Kim Brothers is division vice president of Adult Services at Centerstone.