The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved financing and design of a mental health center in the city of Orange, a first of its kind for the county.
“This is a historic day in Orange County,” Supervisor Andrew Do said of the Be Well OC Behavioral Health Services facility planned for 265 S. Anita Drive.
The board approved plans to spend $16.6 million on the design and construction of the 60,000-square-foot mental health campus. Officials estimate the construction costs could be up to $40 millio,n with the budget shared by the county and other local mental health stakeholders.
The Be Well OC coalition includes public and private mental health stakeholders such as CalOptima, the public insurance program for the needy, area hospitals, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
“The overarching goal of Be Well OC is to establish a coordinated, countywide behavioral health service system,” according to a county staff report to the board.
The board bypassed bidding for the project since officials concluded it would not reduce the cost.
The project is a “joint collaboration that is going to be a beacon for the nation,” Do said. “We no longer view mental health and services in separate baskets. We no longer see patients through the prism of is it the Healthcare Agency, or CalOptima, or private insurance companies. We no longer view our community in such disparate ways… We will see the community for what it is — a community. Come one, come all and we’ll sort out the payment system later.”
Do praised city of Orange officials for “stepping up” and accepting the Anita Drive facility “despite some questions from their residents.”
Do said the project comprises a “critical piece of the system of care we are building,” which includes shelters and housing for the county’s transients.
Orange County Board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett called it a “monumental day for our county,” and added she supported the project because “I’ve always been a big fan of public-private partnerships.”
“We will open the doors and welcome everyone that needs help for mental health, and to have all the components of mental health on one campus is kind of mind-boggling,” she said.
Bartlett called it a “mental health ecosystem.”
She added, “It is truly amazing and something we should be proud of. There’s nothing like it in the state of California. This could be a template. This is something where I tell you other counties are watching what we’re doing and Orange County is taking the lead on so many things.”
Supervisor Doug Chaffee also praised the project.
“It is a need that has been long neglected,” Chaffee said. “It can be a national model.”