Donation of facility will serve region’s homeless, mentally ill
Thanks to the donation of Ridgecrest Health Care’s 24,700-square-foot defunct facility on North Church Street in Jonesboro will soon have a facility to serve Craighead County’s homeless, as well as provide a mental health crisis center that covers a 13-county region in northeast Arkansas.
It is the result of multiple partnerships, including Ridgecrest, the City and County, non-profit Homeless Ministries of Jonesboro, Mid-South Health Systems and the volunteers running Jonesboro’s HUB (Helping Underserved Belong).
The former Ridgecrest Retirement and Assisted Living Facility will be deeded to Homeless Ministries of Jonesboro. Completion of the transaction should take 30 to 60 days, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said.
The public-private partnership would serve several long-term goals for Jonesboro and Craighead County. It can house up to 83 beds, and would greatly enhance and stabilize Jonesboro's fledgling HUB, the city's first full-service, volunteer-run organization designed to serve the homeless population.
The wing for a mental crisis center could potentially serve not only Craighead but a dozen other counties in northeast Arkansas. Sheriff Marty Boyd pushed for Act 423 that passed the Arkansas Legislature this year, creating a means to initiate crisis stabilization units around the state.
With Gov. Asa Hutchison’s commitment of financial support, four are to open. Craighead County was chosen as one host site and granted $1.6 million to run the facility. This unit will have 16 beds and doctors and trained experts to operate it.
“The crisis unit means we will no longer be treating mental illness as a crime,” Boyd said. “When we come in contact with individuals we deem in mental-health crisis, we can now divert them from jail and toward treatment.”
Civic leaders see this accomplishment a result of partnership among the governments and private partnerships with those in the health care and volunteer communities.
“There is only so much we can do with taxpayer dollars,” Perrin said. “This is the result of hard work and commitment by our caring community.”
Homeless Ministries of Jonesboro Inc. interim director Danny Pridmore said, “We are grateful to the mayor of Jonesboro and to the sheriff of Craighead County. Without them, I don’t think this would be happening.”
Perrin and Boyd see the use of the Ridgecrest property as a goal-line for two key problems facing the region.
Perrin created a 24-person task force of volunteers with experience in helping the homeless two years ago. The result of that task force has created the HUB, which provides resources including but not limited to obtaining Social Security and birth records, mental and physical health, life-skills courses and job opportunities.
Homeless Ministries property will offer them a bed until they can find permanent residences.
"I couldn't be more excited about what this means for some of our most needy citizens," Perrin said. "To have private partners step up with an offer like this just touches my heart."