photo by: Douglas County screenshot

Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center CEO Patrick Schmitz, left, addresses the Douglas County Commission during the commission’s Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 meeting.

Two months from now, Douglas County leaders could at last be considering whether to approve final agreements with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center for the operation of the yet-to-open Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County.

That’s according to a tentative timeline laid out by county staff at Wednesday’s Douglas County Commission meeting, when the county shared its first public update since December on the status of its negotiations with Bert Nash about operating the TRC. Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told commissioners that as it stands, April 5 is the tentative date county staff hopes final agreements with Bert Nash will be presented to the commission for approval.

“I want to be really clear as we start talking about future dates — this is an extremely aggressive timeline,” Plinsky told commissioners Wednesday. “This is going to require multiple meetings a week, perhaps, on the part of county staff and Bert Nash staff to get moving towards this timeline. The direction I had from the County Commission was to set an aggressive timeline, but I think it is important to note that we’re going to have to work real hard to make some of these things happen.”

Between now and then, Plinsky’s tentative timeline has a number of deadlines the county and Bert Nash are looking to meet. The first, Feb. 23, is the deadline for the two entities to agree to key terms of an operating agreement and lease. According to a presentation from county staff shared at Wednesday’s meeting, those terms include items like staffing, accreditation, a TRC advisory council appointed by the commission and more.

And after that, the county has set a deadline of March 10 for Bert Nash to have satisfactorily addressed what are referred to as “due diligence” questions and requests. Such asks have been subject to review from the county’s outside legal counsel, Brooke Aziere, a partner with Kansas-based law firm Foulston Siefkin LLP. Commissioners have previously pointed to Aziere as one of the key figures in reviewing documents from any potential TRC operator.

Aziere was at Wednesday’s meeting and shared a list of more than a dozen due diligence topics that she and the county are continuing to work through with Bert Nash. That list includes items like the facility’s leadership team, budgets, insurance, facility logistics, and law enforcement and EMS engagement.

Bert Nash CEO Patrick Schmitz at one point expressed some frustration with what the agency was being asked to provide on this front, deliverables which Aziere said might be more extensive than what’s required by the state of Kansas.

Schmitz said his team was committed to meeting Plinsky’s timeline but couldn’t offer any guarantees. That’s because he said he was worried about whether the county would keep asking for more as the two parties worked through those due diligence items. Schmitz, commissioners and Aziere spoke about the due diligence items throughout the meeting using the word “plus” as shorthand, referring to county requests that go beyond state licensure requirements.

“You’re projecting that the county is being overly zealous in the expectations it has, and I’m trying to understand,” Commissioner Patrick Kelly said. “If Bert Nash is expecting that there will be no ‘plus’ when it comes to the TRC and wants to project that that ‘plus’ is too much and we may not be able to hit that deadline, I think it’s important to clarify that now.”

March 31 is the deadline for the operating agreement and lease documents in their final forms, approved by county staff and legal counsel.

Plinsky said she hopes another public update to the commission will also be on the timeline; that could take place either March 15 or March 22.

County counselor John Bullock stressed that there haven’t been any decisions made or agreements reached yet, though. Those actions are up to the commission to ultimately decide.

In other business, the commission:

* During a work session, heard a presentation from the team of consultants working to develop an Open Space Plan for the county.

* Approved a conditional use permit for a 190-foot-tall wireless communication facility — a cell tower to boost phone service coverage — located at 727 East 1700 Road in the Vinland area between Lawrence and Baldwin City.

* Updated personnel policies for Douglas County and Consolidated Fire District 1 to include changes such as additional funeral days and a shared leave pool policy.

* Authorized the county to enter professional design service contracts with CT Design+Development and Landplan Engineering to begin designs for a new maintenance building on the Douglas County Fairgrounds.





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