Scott County officials are seeking $1.4 million in state bonding to build in Savage the area’s first residential mental health facility to house vulnerable adults.

As mental health crisis calls surge across the south metro, local leaders are aiming to address what they call a regional gap in services.

Rep. Drew Christensen, R-Savage, has proposed legislation to help localize care for individuals suffering from a short-term mental crisis and for those who require more intensive treatment. In lieu of psychiatric hospitalization, the facility would provide 16 beds where adults can go to adjust their medication, get therapy and stabilize for up to 90 days.

Scott County has committed matching funds to design and construct the proposed $2.8 million center. St. Paul-based mental health provider Guild Inc. is slated to run the programming.

If completed, it would become the first of its kind in Scott County.

Advocates say the need is obvious. From 2012 to 2016, the county saw a 90 percent increase in the use of short-term crisis beds, said Health and Human Services Director Pam Selvig.

“The extreme shortage of beds has resulted in some people sitting in emergency rooms for long hours — or days — as they wait for an appropriate placement,” Selvig testified in front of the House Capital Investment Committee this month. “Patients are frequently sent long distances … as far away as Fargo or Duluth.”

A local residential treatment option would provide more timely and appropriate levels of care, Selvig said, while saving taxpayers money.

Savage Mayor Janet Williams testified in favor of the proposal, saying the program would have provided a refuge for her own family. Williams cares for her 51-year-old son, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after college.

At the time, hospital protocol dictated that they receive a consult from the Carver-Scott mobile crisis team, whose responders develop a safety plan with families.

“So we waited for hours in what looked like a cell as he was hearing voices,” Williams recounted. “After they arrived and did an assessment, he was strapped to a gurney in his psychotic state and transferred to Brainerd, where there was an available bed.”

Their journey didn’t end there. Williams zigzagged across the state seeking treatment for her son, from Mankato to Duluth and New Ulm to Anoka. Without her help, she figures he’d be homeless.

“Obviously the mental health system is broken,” Williams said. “But we’ll never give up hope.”

In recent years, suburban counties have identified mental health services as a legislative priority to manage the “growing epidemic,” Christensen said.

Neighboring Carver County is pursuing a similar short-term facility near Chaska’s Lake Bavaria. County commissioners approved plans in December to convert the former Marie Steiner Kelting Hospice Home to a 12-bed temporary crisis center that allows vulnerable adults to stay up to 10 days.

Next week, a dedicated mobile response unit operating out of the Scott County Law Enforcement Center will begin providing round-the-clock emergency intervention and stabilization services for Scott County residents suffering a mental health crisis. Commissioners severed a 20-year partnership with Carver County last year, opting to contract with Canvas Health Inc. to cut costs and improve response times.