Supervisors purchase land for new mental health center in Visalia, to dismay of neighbors

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- This week, Tulare County Supervisors approved the $1.2-million-dollar purchase of property on Lovers Lane in Visalia. It will be the future site of a mental health wellness and recovery center. Set to open late next year.

Another center like it will open in Porterville early next year.

"A wellness and recovery center is our lowest level of care," said Tulare County Mental Health Director Dr. Timothy Durick. "This is for individuals who have experienced a significant amount of recovery with their mental illness."

Dr. Durick says the first-of-the-kind centers in Tulare County will offer support groups, educational classes such as budgeting or cooking, and even vocational training.

Besides mental health professionals, the center will also employ peer support specialists, or individuals who have already completed their road to recovery with mental illness.

"So it's very powerful when they're able to discuss with a current consumer, 'Yes I've gone through that, whatever you're struggling with, and this is how I successfully navigated that issue,'" Dr. Durick said.

Josh Cox lives directly across the street from the site of the new Visalia center. He was one of dozens who showed up to the supervisors meeting in opposition to the purchase.

Cox is concerned about the center's clientele, and believes they could have a negative impact on the safety of his family, his neighbors, and the children who attend an elementary school just a couple blocks away. But he still understands the need for facilities like this one.

"We all agree with that," Cox said. "We just don't want it across the street from our house or in close proximity to Pinkham School. It just didn't seem like the right location."

Dr. Durick says there's a significant stigma around mental health in Tulare County, and the United States. He says mental health patients make up a small percentage of those who commit violent acts, and are actually more likely to be victims of violence than others.

"I think it's an opportunity for us to educate the community and help them to see that we will be a good neighbor," he said. "And these are individuals that have the same goals that each of those residents have."
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.