The Clovis Planning Commission unanimously approved a permit to build a 102-bed behavioral health hospital near Highway 168 and Clovis Avenue after hearing revisions and opposition from the public Thursday night.
The vote was 4-0; Commissioner Pamela Kallsen was absent. The proposal will now advance to the City Council.
The commission’s decision was postponed at the Sept. 16 meeting so revisions to the project could be added. Those revisions included a 12-foot “no climb wall” to prevent escapes, the separation of juvenile and adult patients, and the requirement that discharged patients not loiter.
Clovis police assured the commission that they would be able to 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 make sure patients are getting to their homes or homeless shelters.
Commission Chairman Vong Mouanoutoua said he was reassured by police that the facility would not pose a threat to residents, who argued that even police could not remove people from the area once they are discharged.
Police said they would also charge fees to the hospital if they have to respond to excessive calls to the facility, which raised concerns among Clovis residents. Most thought that if the police charge the hospital, it would stop calling for patients who need help.
The permit was approved with all the revisions, and Commissioner Paul Hinkle requested an advisory group be added.
About 25 people showed up to the Clovis City Council chambers wearing red to oppose the mental health facility. Jane Analla, who lives near the proposed facility, asked the commissioners why they would propose an idea she deems unsafe for the city. “You’re talking about … people coming in that are dangerous to our community, to our families,” she said. “The dollars may look real good, but what are you risking?”
Commissioner Amy C. Hatcher reminded attendees of the commission’s job. “We’re here solely to do planning and zoning,” she said, adding that the City Council would consider residents’ concerns about any risks the hospital might pose. “In looking at this, where it’s located is zoned for it.”
Universal Health Services, which operates 240 acute, behavioral and surgical centers, is proposing a 55,000-square-foot facility in a Clovis industrial park. The proposal has the support of Fresno County and mental health officials because the region lacks enough treatment beds for the mentally ill.
Company officials say the $40 million project would create 200 jobs, including many for high-paying clinicians, nurses and psychologists.