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Arkansas governor extols opening of first mental-crisis unit

FORT SMITH — Arkansas’ first crisis stabilization unit opened Wednesday with officials from across the state praising it for serving the needs of the mentally ill in western Arkansas and pointing to it as a template other states can follow.

The center is the first of four crisis stabilization units that have been authorized as a pilot program to be developed in Arkansas. Other units are planned in Pulaski, Craighead and Washington counties, with the state allocating $1.6 million for each.

“It is exciting to see that Arkansas is doing something that other states will look at and learn from, adapt, and we will lead,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson told about 300 people gathered at the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center. “This is important for our nation.”

Hutchinson told the crowd that the problem of mental illness was discussed last weekend during a governors conference he attended in Washington, D.C. The discussion was related to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.

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