Green Bay police shows support for new mental health facility

Willow Creek Behavioral Health held a ribbon cutting Thursday, Jan. 12, 2016. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Eight Green Bay police cars parked in front of Willow Creek Behavioral Health Hospital Thursday morning.

Inside, police officers were easy to spot and it was clear the department supported the new facility.

At the podium, police Chief Andrew Smith said, "Last year, officers responded and took into custody 595 different times individuals that were going through some type of emergency medical psychological difficulties."

And, that's where officer Barb Gerarden comes in. She works as a temporary mental health officer and many times, the people she encounters need treatment.

"We encounter people everyday that are in crisis and it's really important to have the resources to be able to help them at the time they're in need," she said.

The police department plans to hire two full-time mental health officers and she's in the running for one of those positions.

During its celebration and ribbon cutting, Willow Creek officials talked about the building.

"We have the flexibility with our building design to move populations around. We also have distinct population units where we're not mixing people with different diagnoses, said Doug Ginn.

He's the senior executive vice president of Strategic Behavioral Health, the organization in charge of this facility. With 72 beds, Willow Creek will also cater to children, adults and seniors in need.

In the past, not everyone was excited for Willow Creek's arrival, that includes Bellin Health which runs its own psychiatric center but when asked, Bellin had no comment.

Erik Pritzl, executive director of Brown County Human Services Department , says he's seen an increase in people who need treatment when existing providers don't have the room.

"If we don't have capacity locally, then we have to look outside the community... if we can have more resources more locally, that helps keep people local which helps their treatment," he said.

Ginn says, "There's a dramatic need across the country, it's just the planets aligned for this community for us to be able to provide here."

With a staff of 80, Willow Creek says in all 250 jobs could be available in the future. The facility is expected to open Tuesday.

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