Centerstone launches new Living Room program to provide healing - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Centerstone launches new Living Room program to provide healing for those with mental health issues

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Leaders at Centerstone in Louisville have launched a new project designed to divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues from jail to healing.

Creating the "Living Room" was a team effort between Centerstone, LMPD, Louisville Metro Corrections, the Department of Public Health and Wellness, and the community service group CLOUT. Leaders from all of those groups met Wednesday morning to discuss the program’s launch and goals for the future.

Kimberly Brothers Sharp, who is overseeing the Living Room, said seven people have been diverted from jail since opening their doors on Dec. 10. The Living Room is starting slow and only taking people from LMPD’s Fourth Division. Leaders want to make sure they have all the kinks worked out before expanding in the future.

“I think what we’re most excited about is the ability to help a population that we currently don’t have an answer for,” said Maj. Josh Judah, LMPD’s Fourth Division Commander.

Judah said officers spend a lot of time responding to calls for low-level offenders who are having a mental health crisis or are under the influence of some kind of substance.

“These are generally low-level offenders who we really don’t want to arrest, but we have to for their own safety,” he said.

The Living Room now provides officers. Currently, anyone coming to the Living Room must be brought by an officer. It’s free and voluntary, and once someone is dropped off, he or she can stay up to 23 hours.

“Our goal is to bring you in, help you be safe in the moment, help you deescalate and then move quickly to the connections with those resources,” said Kimberly Brothers Sharp with Centerstone.

Some of the resources Living Room workers can connect people with include counseling, treatment programs, housing options and job opportunities.

“Success for Centerstone and the community is keeping persons with mental illness and substance abuse issues that have not harmed anyone out of incarceration with a greater connection to resources,” Brothers Sharp said.

Leaders believe the Living Room will help keep more officers on the streets to respond to more serious violent crimes. They also believe this will help relieve some of the overcrowding issues with Metro Corrections and save money.

“It’s fiscally responsible,” said CLOUT co-chair Chris Finzer, who helped launch the program. “And it’s also human and compassionate for people who need services.”

Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton 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.

“It’s not very many opportunities you have in life to save money, to improve public safety and do good work all at the same time," Living Room Director Tony Zipple said. "And this is one of those."

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.

Louisville Metro Council provided Centerstone with $325,000 to fund the Living Room. Zipple said they are thankful for the money, but they expect that will only carry them through six months. He hopes the program will prove successful so they can continue to fund it past this test period.

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