Plans for a controversial behavioral health hospital in Clovis have been scrapped, at least for now, by the company that wanted to build it.
The company’s lawyer confirmed Tuesday that the company chose to terminate its escrow on the site northwest of Highway 168 and Herndon Avenue.
Universal Health Services had plans to build a 102-bed facility in the city’s Dry Creek Business Park. The project passed the Clovis Planning Commission in September, but will not be taken up by the City Council for final approval anytime soon.
“While we are very proud that the project passed the Clovis Planning Commission 4-0, we believe it is important that a complete Clovis City Council consider the project,” the company said in statement released through its attorney, Kenneth Price.
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“With Councilman Harry Armstrong’s retirement (last month), we simply cannot accomplish that objective until next year,” the company said.
But, the company added, “The Fresno-Clovis metropolitan area faces substantial challenges in meeting the mental health needs of its residents, and there is a clear need in the community for a behavioral health hospital.”
The company is absolutely committed to having a hospital in the Fresno-Clovis area.
Kenneth Price, lawyer for Universal Health Services
The company said the community showed significant support for the project, especially families affected by mental health issues.
Said Price: “The company is absolutely committed to having a hospital in the Fresno-Clovis area.”
Council Member Lynne Ashbeck planned to recuse herself from the vote because of her job in the health care industry. Mayor Nathan Magsig will take a seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in January and Armstrong has retired, leaving only two council members to vote on the project. But three votes would be required for passage. Clovis will hold council member elections in March.
Ethan Smith, who worked with the property owner on the land transaction, said the project could return for consideration at the same site.
“We’re disappointed that they’ve elected to cancel the escrow at this point and hope that they will determine that this is the right site for them in the future,” said Smith, senior vice president with Newmark Grubb in Fresno.
Some residents in the area were concerned about the project because of the potential for mental health patients to escape and the proximity of schools and homes. The company pledged to install a 12-foot no-climb fence around the facility.
I don’t truly believe it’s over.
Molly Analla, resident opposing mental health hospital
Molly Analla, a Clovis resident opposing the plan, was relieved to learn Tuesday that the fight was over, at least for now.
“It’s been kind of stressful because of the lack of notification from our own city,” she said. “I don’t truly believe it’s over. This was my first fight in local politics and it has been truly eye-opening.”
There was support from families as well as Fresno County and mental health officials for the plan because it would alleviate a problem in the county, which lacks enough mental health beds. Some families travel hundreds of miles to visit loved ones staying in out-of-town mental health facilities.
“It’s disappointing,” said Dawan Utecht, Fresno County behavioral health department director. “I support an increase in places for people to get mental health services.”
She said she can understand Clovis residents being concerned, but the county has had a contract with a mental health facility in Kingsburg for the past year and there have been no issues with patients there, she said.
Universal Health Services operates more than 200 acute, behavioral and surgical centers across the country. The Clovis site was proposed to cost $40 million, cover 55,000 square feet and create 200 jobs, including many for high-paying clinicians, nurses and psychologists.