The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to move forward with a plan to turn a dilapidated facility in the Hillcrest neighborhood into a behavioral health center.
The county Health and Human Services Agency will now conduct a feasibility study on turning the property, located at 4307-4039 Third Ave. in San Diego, into a Regional Hub for Behavioral Health Continuum of Care. Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county’s chief administrative officer, was directed to present the study to the board no later than Nov. 20.
The county-owned, 7.24-acre parcel has been vacant for nearly 10 years. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who made the proposal, said the board’s unanimous vote means the county is “committed to taking substantive action to address the mental health crisis.”
“This new model has the potential to become a behavioral health continuum of care system that serves four corners of the county,” Fletcher added.
He said a regional hub would provide services such as crisis stabilization, inpatient, residential psychotherapeutic rehabilitation, intensive outpatient, and other related services and programs.
Another benefit, board members said, would be the regional hub being located near two major hospitals: UC San Diego Medical Center and Scripps Mercy Hospital.
Previously, there had been interest in building condominiums on the Hillcrest property, according to the county. In light of the board’s vote for a regional hub, the CAO will cancel a proposed ground lease for a project described as “predominately high-priced residential housing.”
Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said the existing buildings on the Hillcrest site need to be torn down. Putting commercial housing there wasn’t a bad idea, “but the times have changed,” Jacob said, adding that a regional hub is the right thing to do.
Her colleague, Kristin Gaspar, said she was very encouraged by an innovative model for treating people with mental health needs.
It can be difficult to find a good location for such a facility, but “today we have a rare opportunity to expand upon this model right out of the gate,” she said.
Board members heard from three speakers in favor of the regional hub, including Brian Elliott, policy director for San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward. Elliott said the facility would become a “life-saving link in reducing homelessness.”
The board also endorsed seeking out other locations in the county, including in Escondido and Fallbrook, to build similar mental health facilities.
Updated at 12:30 p.m. March 27, 2019
–City News Service
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