After decades of helping others during times of crisis, the Bridge got a needed boost of its own.

Lincoln’s nonprofit detoxification facility has long opened its doors to provide civil protective custody for those who are a danger to themselves or others as a result of alcohol or drugs. Now, the Lincoln Police Department and Lancaster County Board of Supervisors are stepping up to ensure this critical public service can continue for the next year.

After the state determined the civil protective custody for Medicaid-eligible patients no longer qualified for Medicaid reimbursement, the Bridge lost around $4,800 per month. For an operation with a $650,000 annual budget, those losses could have greatly curtailed the agency’s necessary work.

The need for the Bridge’s services wouldn’t end, even without emergency funding. Local officials are cognizant enough of its niche and vital importance – and rightfully so – that the city of Lincoln already pays for more than half of the center’s budget but Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister plans to chip in $50,000 in department funds to help defray expenses.

"It’s a resource we have relied on for 34 years. If we lose that civil protective custody component, that would be devastating," Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner told the commissioners.

The facility’s 20 beds are frequently all in use on weekends, including following Nebraska’s first home football game on Sept. 2. Without this option, many of those who committed a minor crime under the influence or were so drunk or high they were a danger to themselves or others would instead be incarcerated – which would carry a far higher price tag for taxpayers.

Commissioner Roma Amundson estimated some 1,400 suspected drunk drivers arrested in Lincoln and Lancaster County would cost the county $140,000 a year if they were put in jail, a figure in line with the average cost of $100 per day incarcerated per person.

Furthermore, the detox unit’s civil protective custody service has become a go-to resource for law enforcement. A county jail isn’t the proper place to address the immediate needs of people incapacitated by drugs and alcohol; they need time and the proper care to recover before being released to a caretaker or sobering up.

Whether for college students who have had too much to drink, intoxicated drivers who are a danger to others or petty criminals, the temporary services provided by the Bridge benefit those who need to use them while also saving money. This short-term funding infusion will keep its critical work afloat for the time being.


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