Unified Plan to Tackle Mental Health Concerns in OC

By Orange County Business Journal

October 28, 2019

A large cross section of Orange County healthcare and civic leaders expect a forthcoming $40 million facility in the city of Orange to mark the first step in a unified approach by the county toward combatting mental health problems and treating drug abuse—and in doing so alleviating some of the area’s homelessness issues.

Be Well Orange County, a recently created collection of businesspeople, politicians and others, this month held a groundbreaking event for a new mental health treatment campus, the first of its type in the area.

The roughly 45,000-square-foot facility, at 265 Anita Drive, was bought last year for about $7.8 million, property records indicate.

The site is now beginning an extensive renovation that’s scheduled to be completed in about a year.

Backers of the project expect the center to get nearly 10,000 visits a year.

The services provided “will be a significant step forward in helping to break the cycle of mental illness, drug addiction, and displacement that many homeless citizens suffer,” said Orange Mayor Mark Murphy.

The site is near the intersection of the Santa Ana (5) and Orange (57) freeways, not far from where Anaheim’s prominent homeless encampments were previously situated last year.

The estimated $40 million cost of the initial project is largely being funded by three groups: CalOptima, the community-based Medi-Cal plan, the County of Orange, and a collection of area hospitals—Kaiser Permanente, Hoag and Providence St. Joseph Health.

Two more locations are planned by Be Well OC going forward, in South County and closer to the coast, according to Dan Young, a board member of the group. Specific locations haven’t been selected yet.

Heart Surgery Mentality

Young, a former mayor of Santa Ana, and more recently an executive at Irvine Co., likens Be Well’s approach with treating mental health and addiction to that of treating heart disease. Until now, “there was no [unified] system of care” with the former locally, he said.

“You can’t win the battle without setting up the system,” Young said. “It’s the same as heart surgery.”

The goal is for the Orange location to be a “specialized center” that offers treatment, giving people a place to go to for help besides a hospital or jail, he said.

Be Well broadens “the resources available for mental health care” in OC, and “enables more patients with mental health disorders and substance abuse issues access to treatment and care,” said Jeremy Zoch, chief executive at St. Joseph Hospital Orange.

To view the original Orange County Business Journal article, please click here.