Groundbreaking held for new mental health center in Fairfield

Tuesday marked a mostly symbolic but still pivotal milestone as Solano County moves toward the construction of a new mental health residential treatment center in Fairfield.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the county’s Health and Social Services campus for the 11,900 combined square feet center, which aims to provide support for adult county residents experiencing mental illness and facing a risk of housing insecurity. Solano was one of 10 counties to receive funding for the project through Senate Bill 843, with the remaining funds coming from Fairfield public facility fees and grant funds from the state’s Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention program. The total cost of the project is $12.5 million.

The ceremony was attended by several representatives from regional health care consortiums such as Kaiser Permanente, NorthBay Healthcare and Sutter Health as well as numerous elected officials such as Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, Benicia Mayor Steve Young, all five county supervisors and representatives for Sen. Bill Dodd, Assemblyman Jim Frazier and Rep. John Garamendi.

County Administrator Birgitta Corsello said the center is part of the continued expansion of the Health and Social Services campus, which was established with the purchase of one building in the ’90s and has only grown since. The mental health center, she said, would provide the most “unique” addition to the campus and one that will fill a need in the county.

“The project is gonna provide mental health services and serve clients and hopefully divert them from the criminal justice system and capture them as they’re either stepping down from more intense services before they’re ready to go out on their own,” she said.

Rendering of the Solano County mental health residential treatment facility. Construction is projected to be completed by September 2022. (Nick Sestanovich — The Reporter)

The project will consist of three buildings: a 5,500 gross square feet single-story administration building and a pair of 3,200 gross square feet residential buildings. One building will house the board and care unit, and another will house the intensive residential mental health treatment unit. The two residential buildings will provide 16 beds each.

While John Vasquez, chair of the Solano County Board of Supervisors, said 32 might seem like a small number of beds, he assured they were “32 meaningful beds.”

“Mental health has always been a critical issue for us (on the Board of Supervisors),” he said. “It’s something we’ve wanted to do, and we’ve been slowly working at it. This financing and the money we have in the public facility fees really starts to make a difference, and it’s gonna happen.”

Vasquez emphasized the need to provide support for people with mental health issues, particularly those who are homeless.

“I know this board is committed to building those buildings, staffing it and providing the best services we can,” he said.

Monica Brown, vice chair of the Board of Supervisors and a member of the Mental Health Advisory Board, highlighted the city of Fairfield as a major partner in county housing projects and also put a spotlight on the work done by the Mental Health Advisory Board. In particular, she noted the work of board member Denise Coleman and had the crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to her since it was her birthday.

“She has been wonderful serving, explaining things to me,” she said.

Corsello went over the timeline for the project, which was awarded to Flint Builders in Roseville. Site demolition and grading is scheduled for January, the foundation would go in place in February, the tilt-up walls and panels are slated to be installed in March, the building will hopefully be weathertight by April, a move-in and beneficial occupancy might take place in August with overall competition planned for September.

However, Corsello said all of this would be dependent on the level of rains during the construction period.

“There was a joke before everyone arrived that before we do groundbreaking, it will start raining,” she said. “Maybe we should start groundbreaking early because we really need rain. I”m hoping, for the construction team and for our project, that we have intermittent rain and we can keep going so the project comes on line as needed. The 32 beds are really desperately needed.”

Gerald Huber, director of Health and Human Services, praised the work of Sandra Sinz, deputy behavioral health director, whom he said “cast the vision” for the project.

“When she talked to me about it, it was very conceptual,” he said. “I actually didn’t think this day would happen.”

However, with the help of various agencies — including, but not limited to, the County Administrator’s Office, County Counsel’s Office, California Health Facilities Financing Authority and Solano Department of Resource Management — the project was made possible.

“It does take a village, but it takes a team to build that village,” Huber said.

Huber said providing treatment to individuals with mental health issues is vital and has consistently ranked among the top two community needs in various health and needs assessments.

“The ability to place individuals that are experiencing mental health is critical that it’s done on a local basis,” he said. “Many people that have significant mental health issues, even in the context of our own county, are farmed outside of the county away from family members, away from community support,” he said. “What we’re trying to develop here is a continuum of care model here in Solano County to meet the need of those who are homeless.”

Following the ceremony, local dignitaries donned hard hats, grabbed shovels and moved dirt to signify the start of the construction process.



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