The Board of County Commissioners approved design and construction plans for the new Behavioral Health Resource Center Thursday, May 13, authorizing the project to move forward. Groundbreaking is expected to begin next month.
Thursday’s vote allows construction to begin on the 24,000-square-foot facility and adjacent 7,000-square-foot plaza, which will be operated by the county’s Behavioral Health Division in partnership with the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
“Today’s vote represents a milestone and one step closer to opening our Downtown Resource Center,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said during Thursday’s meeting. “Our neighbors surviving outside and our community needed a resource like this for a long time. I’m grateful we are closer to making this a reality.”
The facility will offer respite for people with mental illness and substance use disorders who are experiencing homelessness downtown. The space will offer laundry services and showers, food, basic healthcare, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, referrals and peer-support, as well as emergency shelter and transitional housing.
“The Behavioral Health Resource Center will be about helping to meet basic needs and supporting people as they build relationships and hopefully connect with other long-term supports, including treatment, housing, employment as appropriate, or other things that will support them,” said Julie Dodge, the interim Behavioral Health Division director.
The Board of Commissioners, in January 2019, approved the purchase of the Building at 333 S.W. Park St. for $4.34 million and an adjacent parking lot at 810 S.W. Oak for $1.5 million. That September, the Board approved preliminary plans for the project. The Portland Design Commission approved the plans in December 2020.
And throughout the process, the Behavioral Health Division has held more than a dozen stakeholder meetings where providers, first responders and peers have weighed in on everything from design and services, to hiring, training and exclusion criteria.
“We have found tremendous value in the input they’ve offered around training and particularly the need for trauma-informed services and building relationships to reduce implicit bias,” said Lynn Smith-Stott, who supervises the Office of Consumer Engagement.
Construction is estimated to cost $26 million, with construction expected to conclude around June 2022. The center is expected to fully open in Fall 2022.
“It’s just been something I’ve dreamed about for just so long,” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said. “Nowhere are people more vulnerable than people who are living outside, unsheltered, and have nowhere to go and are experiencing behavioral health issues. This is a place to go.”