Clovis Planning Commission postpones decision on mental health facility

Residents voiced their opposition on Sept. 8 in the council chambers, to a proposed behavioral hospital to be built in the Clovis Industrial Area.[Photo by Ron Sundquist]

Paul Schlesinger | Reporter

The Clovis Planning Commission delayed its decision Thursday on whether an 102-bed mental health facility could be built inside the city as supporters and detractors to the project filled the city hall council chambers.

The proposed mental health facility, owned by Universal Health Services, one of the largest hospital management companies in the United States, is expected to be built on the fringes of the expanding Dry Creek Business Park in the area, north of Herndon Avenue and west of Clovis Avenue, right beside Dry Creek and bordering the Cottonwood Grove apartment complex.

The facility is expected to include 12-foot high, no-climb fences at areas surrounding the facility and where vehicles that would be entering to drop-off and pick-up patients.

UHS told the commission and the audience that a plan would be set-up to make sure that patients that are released from the hospital would be taken to families locally or to airports, bus terminals or train stations if they were out of the area.

This issue and others prompted concerns from residents who were worried about the impact the facility might have on an area that’s near homes, parks and schools.

Anna Silva, a Clovis resident who lives near the facility, was worried about the traffic impact since only two side streets would provide access to the hospital and echoed a statement many had.

“I am very sympathetic to the needs of the community for this type of service and I’m not actually opposed to that type of hospital in general,” Silva said. “I just don’t like the location.”

Travis Nolte, another Clovis resident living in the area, was worried about people outside of the the neighborhood gathering in front of the facility. Something he has seen in other mental health facilities in Fresno.

“Outside of those facilities, people congregate,” Nolte said. “Whether they believe they can get in or get a free meal.”

“That’s going to endanger the people that live in this area,” He added.

Nolte brought home the fact that he identified there was a lack of facilities in the area catering to mental illness, but that it shouldn’t be built there.

“Do we need the facility? Yes we do,” He said. “Do we need it right there? No we don’t.”

Christina Roup, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter in Fresno, disagreed with the concerned residents and reminded them how mental illness can strike close to home.

“Why care so much about this proposed project? Because no one has  peace from mental illness until they are gone from this life” Roup said. “Mental illness has no favorite age, no favorite gender, ethnicity, zip code or profession.”  

Roup also made the audience think of where they would seek mental health treatment and whether they were willing to go out of town to get help or would they rather get help in Clovis.

“Where would you want to access treatment?” she asked.  “Where would you want to take your loved one? Where would you want to start your journey to recovery? Where would you want to find hope?”

The planning commission is expected to make the final decision on the project during its next meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22.