The other bond issue on the ballot (questions three and four) is being overshadowed by the RTA (questions one and two). The questions ask the voters to approve bonds that would raise fifty-four million dollars to build a psychiatric urgent care facility, and an eighty bed psychiatric treatment center. They money would construct the buildings, which would then be leased to University Physicians who would operate the facility.
The arguments in favor are twofold: 1, It would reduce costs by treating the mentally ill instead of ignoring them until they end up in jail again and again. It has been estimated that twenty per cent of the county jail population consists of people with mental disorders; 2, It is far more humane to treat people than incarcerate them â€“ it has a far better long term effect for the individual and the community.
They are valid arguments, but the assumptions are faulty.
Consider the nature of the mentally ill to whom the proponents refer. The vast majority are substance abusers, and if you include the people with traditional mental illnesses and substance abuse problems, you are left with a very small population indeed. Substance abusers do not recover at urgent care centers or hospitals; they recover by attending twelve step programs or religious programs.
There is also an assumption that Tucson is devoid of any facilities at this time. Off the top of my head, I can think of COPE, Palo Verde Hospital to name a couple; and I know that the VA Hospital and Kino Hospital both have psychiatric facilities. Cottonwood and Sierra Tucson are two private sector facilities that specialize in substance abuse.
So, hereâ€™s the bottom line: we have a $54,000,000.00 proposed facility that will add to existing facilities that serve a small population â€“ thatâ€™s $54,000,000.00 for the infrastructure only.
Perhaps the University Physicians can build their psychiatry business over time â€“ customized to the Tucson market. Iâ€™m sure that Jim Click and Don Diamond (both of whom support the bonds) could help with start-up capital. It would probably result in better community service; but why spend all that time and effort when Pima County can wave a wand?