With the escrow closing on property at 1223 S. Lovers Lane, Tulare County now owns the building. Located at the corner of Tulare Ave., the intent is for the property to fill a need within the county’s Health and Human Services Agency’s (HHSA) Mental Health branch, as a Wellness and Recovery Center.
According to a recent HHSA press release, the facility follows mandates of the Mental Health Services Act, passed by voters in 2004, which requires wellness and recovery programs and provides funding for services and resources to promote wellness, recovery, and resiliency for adults, youth, children, and their family members based on five essential principles:
- Consumer and Family Driven Services
- Focus on Wellness, Recovery, and Resiliency
- Community Collaboration
- Cultural Competency
- Integrated Service Experience
The county could offer support groups, educational classes and vocational training at the new facility. Clients could and will be advised to utilize budgeting workshops, cooking classes, arts and crafts for self-expression, library and computer stations for the promotion of education and employment, employment support services for job search, job readiness and retention, social and recreational engagement opportunities, and peer-to-peer and family groups to promote wellness, recovery, and resiliency skills.
Neighborhood concerns continue to surround the center, mostly in reference to the potential individuals who may utilize the center – be it those formerly convicted of a crime, or former drug users, or addicts. The property is located close to Pinkham Elementary School on E. Tulare Ave., as well as many private homeowners.
However, the county proposes the center “will operate from 10am – 7pm, to align with public transit schedules. Security officer(s), security cameras, and appropriate lighting will be placed at the exterior of the building to ensure compliance with the no loitering and no smoking outside designated smoking area signs.
Seven foot fencing will be added around the vacant lot just south of the building wherein a garden and outdoor space will be placed, as well as landscaping to beautify the area surrounding the building,” according to Tammie Weyker, HHSA public information officer.
It also should be noted that the center “will not be a treatment clinic, a methadone clinic, medication service provider, or a residential program. It will not serve individuals who are not yet within their wellness and recovery journey, or those just entering into or not yet engaged in mental health treatment.
It will not serve sex offenders or parolees. Nor will it offer mental health assessment or outpatient therapeutic treatment; such as diagnosis, therapy, and medication services.
It will serve individuals who are within or advanced in their wellness and recovery journey and will be an alcohol and drug-free environment.”
According to the county’s HHSA website, “mental health clinics provide services that help individuals with mental illness manage their symptoms and avoid crises. Our goal is to help you avoid hospitalization and help you live and thrive within your community. To do so we use a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to support the wellness and recovery process.”
The county received a Mental Health Services Act grant, covering the $1.2 million expense for the purchase of the property, for which escrow closed in January.
The county is going through the process of determining just how the facility will be utilized as well as addressing possible concerns of neighbors in the area, said Supervisor Board Chair Pete Vander Poel.
Assessing the county’s needs is being done over the upcoming weeks and months, he added.
“These were use it or lose it funds from the State of California,” he said.
The county chose to use it. Some neighbors to the new facility remain concerned.
“We understand their concerns and want to help them understand the intent on the part of the county and what the facility could be,” Vander Poel said.
To that end, the county is conducting two community listening sessions. Meetings will be held at 210 Café located at 210 W. Center St. in Visalia from 7-8:30pm on Tuesday, February 21 and Wednesday, February 22. Any concerned citizens are welcome to attend.