When an opportunity presents itself that could address a number of growing concerns in the community, it merits a hard look.
The subject of mental illness and homelessness landed front and center while I was a County Supervisor due to the death of Kelly Thomas. It started a personal journey that found that many of my constituents have family members suffering with some form of mental illness (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Bill 59 — February 7, 2017 february 7, 2017 john moorlach). I would recommend that you do a little research if you are new to this topic by going to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website at https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions.
The Daily Pilot and the OC Register (the electronic version) cover the Fairview Developmental Center topic in the two pieces below.
Advocates for mental health services look at Fairview Center site for future use
The remaining residents of the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa are scheduled to transition to other living arrangements by 2019, and some people want at least a portion of the site to be used for mental health services after the center closes. (File photo | Daily Pilot)
By Luke Money
The long-term fate of the Fairview Developmental Center site is still years from being decided, but already some are urging that at least a portion be set aside for mental health services.
Among them is state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who recently introduced a bill pertaining to the future of the 114-acre, state-owned property in Costa Mesa.
Moorlach’s Senate Bill 59 doesn’t outline specific plans — only the "intent of the Legislature to enact legislation focusing on the disposition" of the property — but he said his goal is to ensure that local leaders have a say in determining the future of the site at 2501 Harbor Blvd.
"I just want to make sure that property doesn’t slip away," Moorlach said this week. "I’d rather it be available for dealing with a growing epidemic in this state, and that’s mental illness."
Moorlach said he plans to continue meeting with area officials and residents to get their thoughts on the future of the property.
"I think this could be such a win-win for everybody, because you can’t just complain about some of these subjects that are becoming more predominant … we’ve got to provide a solution," he said.
Fairview Developmental Center, first opened in 1959, is a state-run facility that provides services and housing to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A handful of people turned out to Tuesday’s Costa Mesa City Council meeting to encourage development of resources on the site for those who are homeless or mentally ill.
"SB 59 is a placeholder right now and there’s no language for it, but if we don’t say anything, then we lose the opportunity to say anything," said Matt Holzmann, government relations chairman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County.
"If we do nothing, then the state is free to do as they please," he added.
Facilities like Fairview are slated to close in coming years as part of an effort to transition people out of institutional-style centers and into smaller accommodations that are more integrated into communities.
"Fairview is scheduled to transition the remaining residents to community living options by 2019, and all centers planned for closure are scheduled to close in 2021," Nancy Lungren, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services, said in an email this week.
The department "has held extensive meetings with parents, stakeholders, including the city of Costa Mesa and Orange County, and local regional centers while it is developing housing and programs in the community for individuals transitioning from Fairview," Lungren said.
As of this week, 194 people are living at Fairview, according to Lungren. Its population peaked in 1967 with 2,700 residents.
Once Fairview is officially closed, another state agency, the Department of General Services, will step in to determine whether the state can use the land in some other way.
The property will first be made available to other state departments and then to local jurisdictions to see if they have any interest, according to Department of General Services spokesman Brian Ferguson.
If no one bites, the land could be put up for auction.
Ferguson said it’s too soon to tell what might happen with the Fairview site, since the disposition process could take years.
"Our role is to find a good use of that property that’s going to benefit the taxpayers and residents of California," he said.
To Moorlach, the closure of Fairview could create something of a rarity in Orange County — a significant amount of available open land.
The site could be used to provide services and housing for the homeless, developmentally disabled and mentally ill, he said.
"It’s just a matter of how you allocate space — how many acres for which program," he said. "But I don’t think you’re going to find another piece of property like this anywhere in the county."
Should the state sell the site to a private buyer, the property would come under zoning laws established as part of the recent update to Costa Mesa’s general plan.
The plan specifies that at least 25% of the property be set aside for parks and open space. It caps the number of possible residential units at 582. Institutional and recreational uses also are permitted.
Those rules wouldn’t come into play if the state holds onto the land for its use.
Costa Mesa homeless advocates propose converting Fairview center into mental health facility
Homeless advocates are proposing the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa be repurposed as a mental health center that provides long-term recovery. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register/SCNG)
By LOUIS CASIANO Jr. / STAFF WRITER
To get Orange County’s homeless population on a path toward self-sufficiency, homeless advocates are proposing the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa be repurposed as a mental health center that provides long-term recovery.
Several homeless advocates voiced their concerns to the City Council Tuesday, saying they would like to see some of the 114-acre property used to provide long-term recovery to the county’s burgeoning homeless.
Fairview, a state institution for people with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other developmental and intellectual disabilities, is set to close by 2021. The property could be either be repurposed or sold to a private party.
The facility, located at 2501 Harbor Blvd., currently houses 194 developmentally disabled adults who require 24-hour care.
The advocates said they envision a mental health center where those experiencing a crisis can receive psychiatric evaluations, follow-up care and temporary housing.
“In an ideal world, we would like a 250-bed wrap-around mental health facility,” said Matt Holzmann, chair of government relations for the Orange County chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. “What we would like is where we could have people with mental illness check in, get their acute care and then get post-acute care.”
The population at Fairview has rapidly declined since it opened in 1959, when state institutions were options for families who could not care for their children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. In the 1960s, the population peaked with 2,700 residents.
In December, State Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, introduced Senate Bill 59, which would ask the legislature to state its intentions for the property.
“There’s an infinite number of opportunities for that property,” Moorlach said. “We want to work with the county, the community, the city of Costa Mesa… to protect the city, the residents and those that are in need.”
Holzmann said he would like the center to resemble the Haven for Hope center in San Antonio, which has won accolades for its success in providing low-income housing and psychiatric and medical care.
“Getting them three-square meals and a roof over their head and making sure they stay on their meds and therapy if they need it… that could be part of it as well,” Holzmann said.
Once Fairview closes, the state Department of General Services will determine if the state can find another use for the property or sell it. If the property is sold to a private entity, the owner would be subject to Costa Mesa’s zoning laws.
The city’s general plan designates 25 percent of the property’s acreage for public institutional uses, said Mayor Katrina Foley.
“It’s a combination of public institutional, single-family housing and a community open space,” she said. “We are willing to work with the groups, the county to come up with a plan for that 25 percent area that can serve the community in need with regard to support service, mental health and other disabled services.”
Councilman Jim Righeimer said he cares about the mental health and homeless issues in the city, but had concerns the city would become a magnet for homeless people should Fairview expand its homeless services.
“We’re willing to take more than our fair share, but we’re not willing to take the whole county’s,” he said.
A recently-approved growth initiative, known as Measure Y, which is retroactive to the time the property was zoned, may raise issues about the current zoning of Fairview.
In the ongoing struggle to address mental health concerns, county officials have made some progress.
In September, the Children’s Hospital of Orange County broke ground on a mental health facility that will supply 18 beds for children under 12. The facility is slated to open next year.
County officials accepted a $3.1 million grant last year to help pay for emergency medical centers dedicated to treating those suffering from psychiatric episodes.
The county has suffered from a shortage of psychiatric hospital beds in recent years, resulting in long waits for one to open up in hospital emergency rooms. A 2014 Register investigation found there were 32 psychiatric beds in all of Orange County for it’s roughly 725,000 residents under age 18.
Last year, more than 200 homeless people died – the deadliest year for homeless people in the county. They died as a result of drugs, mental illness, violence and years of neglect, according to the Orange County Coroner’s Office.
Contact the writer: lcasiano
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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