Sebastian County

Courtesy / University of Arkansas Fort Smith

This week, voters in Sebastian County voted to end a tax that created about $6 million annually for the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. Michael Tilley, with our partner Talk Business and Politics, talks about that and about two elements of the economy doing better than expected during the pandemic.

Courtesy / Valis55 via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Smith and Sebastian County government leaders have entered into discussions with the Arkansas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy regarding to the future of a Confederate monument that stands on the grounds of the county courthouse. The conversations started after the UDC announced it would be moving another Confederate monument that had stood on the Bentonville downtown square.

Courtesy / Arkansas Department of Health

Michael Tilley, with our partner Talk Business and Politics, discusses an increase in coronavirus cases in Sebastian County, school construction projects in Fort Smith, and the chances of a downtown entertainment district in Fort Smith becoming permanent.

Courtesy / Google Maps

After rising steadily for weeks in Northwest Arkansas, cases of COVID-19 have now been increasing in Sebastian County too. On July 1, the area had 476 total cases of the virus, now there are nearly 2,000 with about 500 active cases. We speak with the Sebastian County Health Unit administrator about why numbers are going up and get information about a free testing event coming up this weekend.

The 100 Families Initiative, a program of Restore Hope, recently received a $1.67 million grant from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services to expand its services in Sebastian County and to create collective impact initiatives in Crawford, Pulaski and White Counties. 100 Families provides wrap around services through a collaborative network of nonprofits and agencies with the goal of keep children out of foster care. The grant will be administered through the United Way of Fort Smith Area.

The Sebastian County Opioid Task Force is hosting a summit at Grace Community Church in Fort Smith this Friday from noon to 5 p.m. that includes four speakers. Seating is limited and registration is available here.

Z. Sitek / KUAF

Sebastian County leaders were the first to open a Crisis Stabilization Unit at the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center earlier this year. As the first to open, they are also the first to handle any issues, like a $79,000 shortfall between the $1.6 million grant from the state and the actual budget necessary to operate the CSU. The Sebastian County judge has asked cities and counties to approve an inter-local agreement that includes a cost-sharing arrangement that will be reevaluated every January.

courtesy: Sebastian County government

Sebastian County leaders have applied for a $750,000 federal grant to start a mental health court similar to the county's drug and veterans’ courts. County Judge David Hudson says a mental health court would provide long-term treatment beyond care provided at the Crisis Stabilization Unit that opened in March. Both the CSU and the mental health court would allow low-level offenders to stay out of jail or prison and would instead address the mental health issues that contributed to their arrests.

courtesy: Sebastian County government

The Sebastian County Crisis Stabilization Unit is slated to open later this month after some delays and a redesign of the building. Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center is facilitating the CSU. County Judge David Hudson and Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck have consulted with Leon Evans, who until last April was instrumental in designing and establishing a crisis center for psychiatric and substance abuse emergencies in San Antonio.