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Somewhat controversial Visalia Wellness Center will open at 1223 S. Lovers Lane before the end of June

Somewhat controversial Visalia Wellness Center will open at 1223 S. Lovers Lane before the end of June

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – A progressive, and somewhat controversial, mental health facility will open in southeastern Visalia this summer.

The Visalia Wellness Center is scheduled to open its doors at 1223 S. Lovers Lane in Visalia sometime before the end of July. The 5,600-square foot facility was cast by neighboring residents as a treatment clinic, methadone clinic, medication service provider and even a residential program, where those with mental health issues are locked in. In reality, Mental Health Services for Tulare County said the facility is drug and alcohol free and would serve individuals who are near the end of their “wellness and recovery journey” and not those recently diagnosed or receiving “intensive services.” The center will not treat addicts and sex offenders, which are treated in completely different programs, such as the criminal justice system.

Programming at the wellness center will be overseen by Kings View Corporation, a behavioral health contractor based out of Fresno County. The Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved a $1 million contract over the next two years at its April 26 meeting. Under the contract, Kings View is now furnishing the facility, and staffing and training employees, and must open the facility within 90 days.

About 50 community members attended two community listening sessions in February 2017, most of whom were not in favor of the facility. Some of the issues raised were mental health patients sharing a bus stop with children on Lovers Lane, unstable mental health patients being treated near homes, and an increase in the number of homeless people.

Similar to its sister facility in Porterville, which opened in May 2017, the Visalia Wellness Center will provide ongoing counseling and classes to those who have already undergone treatment for severe mental illness and severe emotional disturbance. Mental Health Services for Tulare County said there will be a maximum of 50 adults attending various activities at the facility but usually no more 20 or 30 at one time. Mental Health patients in Tulare County typically are diagnosed with post traumatic stress, borderline personality, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. Instead of receiving “treatment” these people will have peer counseling sessions and classes. Classes could include cooking, budgeting, computer classes, interviewing skills and vocational training that are supervised by mental health professionals and structured to provide a sense of normalcy.

In December 2017, the county announced changes to the outside of the building in response to community input from the two listening sessions, such as adding a garden area, a gazebo, landscaping, lighting, and fencing. HHSA staff also proposed new operating hours. Winter hours for the center will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Summer hours would be extended until 7 p.m. on weeknights.

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