The Bridge Behavioral Health center was not in danger of closing, but its civil protective custody service was in jeopardy. Nebraska State Sen. Anna Wishart submitted LB200 to the Health and Human Services Committee on Jan. 11 to help the facility continue to provide that service.
In spring 2018, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services changed regulations regarding new and renewed licenses for mental health and substance use treatment centers. The new regulations said people under the influence of drugs or alcohol admitted to the center should not be treated in locked rooms.
Tammy Stevenson, executive director of The Bridge, said the facility locks its doors for the civil protective custody program to protect those under the influence and others around them from any danger they may create. People under the influence of drugs and alcohol can be treated at The Bridge instead of going to a jail or hospital.
“[Wishart] wants to ensure that [T]he Bridge is able to continue operat[ing] the civil protective custody program that has worked for decades and saved thousands of visits to either jail or an emergency room,” Wishart’s legislative aide, Elizabeth Seacrest, said in an email.
Wishart asked the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska to write a letter to the committee to advocate for the advancement of the bill.
“The Bridge's proximity to [University of Nebraska-Lincoln] means that undoubtedly many UNL students have benefited from the civil protective custody program,” Seacrest said in an email. “Senator Wishart feels strongly about engaging constituents of all ages and the importance of young people having an active role in local government.”
ASUN submitted a letter in appreciation of The Bridge’s mission. President Hunter Traynor said during ASUN’s meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 23, that the Bridge admitted more than 1,000 people between August and December 2018. More than 100 of those people were UNL students.
“I think [elimination of this service] would do huge harm to not only the Lincoln community but specifically to UNL students,” he said.
Stevenson said involuntary admission to the facility and locked doors help keep people under the influence at The Bridge safe.
“The regulations regarding substance use treatment centers state that treatment should be voluntary and that you shouldn’t use seclusion, which we absolutely agree with,” she said. “In all of our other programs, the programs are voluntary and if someone chooses to leave, they can leave … It’s just that civil protective custody is such a unique program for treatment centers to provide.”
Stevenson said The Bridge worked with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and renewed its license for the civil protective custody service in September. She said she helped draft the bill to ensure this program can keep its license.
“So really what the bill does is provide some assurance,” Stevenson said. “It just spells out very clearly in statute that substance use treatment centers can provide this service.”
According to Seacrest, the committee unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday, Jan. 30, and it will advance to the senate floor. The speaker of the legislature will decide when senators vote on this bill.
“We’re going to continue to serve those with addiction and serve those with substance use disorders, but we want to do that through civil protective custody as well,” Stevenson said. “We feel like bringing them here is a much better option than taking them to jail.”