A hearing on a controversial Clovis behavioral health hospital scheduled for Monday night has been postponed indefinitely by the City Council.
The postponement came at the request of Kenneth Price, lawyer for Universal Health Services, the firm wanting to open the hospital.
The 102-bed facility is proposed on industrial property in the Dry Creek Business Park north of Highway 168 and west of Clovis Avenue.
“At this point, we are uncertain whether or not UHS will request the item be heard during this calendar year or early next year,” Price’s letter said.
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Dirk Poeschel, a Fresno development consultant who represents Universal Health Services, said the composition of the City Council is unclear. It will not be until March that the City Council will return to its full five members.
Poeschel said the delay was sought because of the resignation of Councilman Harry Armstrong for health reasons and the possibility that Councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck would declare a conflict because of her position in the local health care industry.
In addition, Mayor Nathan Magsig will begin a four-year term on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in January, further depleting the council’s voting membership to three until it is restored to five members after the March election.
Under state rules, the City Council must have three votes for the project to be approved, said David Wolfe, city attorney.
The Clovis Planning Commission voted 4-0 to support a permit, with more than 60 conditions.
At this point, we are uncertain whether or not UHS will request the item be heard during this calendar year or early next year.
Kenneth Price, lawyer for Universal Health Services
Among the conditions: a 12-foot “no climb wall” to prevent escapes, a separation requirement for juvenile and adult patients, and the requirement that discharged patients not loiter. The commission also voted to create a community advisory committee to work on potential problems if the hospital moves on the site.
Those supporting the hospital say it would keep patients from having to leave the area. Currently, locals with mental health needs must travel several hours to find bed space in a hospital that will accept them. The proposal has the support of Fresno County and mental health officials because the region lacks treatment beds for the mentally ill.
A group of residents opposes the plan because of the potential danger of mentally unstable patients. Residents claim the hospital could affect their property values and pose a danger to residents, schools and students. The nearest campus is about a mile from the site.
Clovis Unified School District has not yet taken a position on the project, said Kelly Avants, district spokeswoman.
Clovis police told the commission that they could handle patients who don’t want to leave the area after they are discharged. Transportation such as taxis, Uber and Lyft will not be allowed to pick up discharged patients, and the hospital staff will have to ensure patients are getting to their homes or homeless shelters.
Police said they would also charge fees to the hospital if they have to respond to excessive calls, which raised concerns among Clovis residents.
About 25 people showed up to the Clovis City Council chambers wearing red to oppose the mental health facility.
Universal Health Services, which operates 240 acute, behavioral and surgical centers, is proposing a 55,000-square-foot facility. Company officials say the $40 million project would create 200 jobs, including many for high-wage clinicians, nurses and psychologists.