By Jesse Turnure
The state is getting its first look inside a crisis stabilization unit through the eyes of a patient. The facility is an alternative to jail for low-level offenders with mental health issues. It can hold more than a dozen “guests” who stay, on average, for three days under 24/7 care.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently sat down with one of the first patients to get treatment at the unit in Fort Smith.
“There was an incident that happened that completely changed my life,” Richard King told the governor. King served our country in the U.S. Navy during the late 1960s. Now, the Vietnam veteran is living with bipolar disorder. “Up until this year, through medication and everything, I’ve lived a normal life,” he said.
In March, SWAT was called out to King’s home. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge.
“Tell me a little bit about what happened,” Hutchinson said.
“I had gotten a stomach virus,” King said. “I couldn’t eat or drink or anything, and I couldn’t take my medications. I don’t get violent. I get angry.”
According to jail records, King was taken to the Sebastian County Detention Center on a mental hold. An officer trained in crisis stabilization found the vet was bipolar and referred him to the state’s first regional mental health crisis center there. King agreed to go.
“I was treated like a human being instead of an animal,” he said. “The difference in the atmosphere there and the attitudes of the people were entirely different.”