Gulf Bend plans to fill need for residential mental health treatment center

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Nov. 4, 2012 at 5:04 a.m.
Updated Nov. 5, 2012 at 5:05 a.m.

Gulf Bend Center wants to build a long-term solution to treat and house Victoria's mentally ill population.

Before Gulf Bend can receive a $250,000 grant to expand, the city council must approve the contract Tuesday.

Gulf Bend Center Executive Director Don Polzin said he hopes to see the center complete by the end of 2013.

"This grant is an opportunity for us to develop a housing program for persons with serious mental illness," Polzin said.

The funds will be used for purchasing property and covering soft costs related to the construction of a new multi-unit public facility. Gulf Bend will conduct a fundraising campaign to cover construction costs.

Polzin said the project will house Victoria's most vulnerable residents: respite, transitional, as well as permanent and long-term mentally disabled limited clientele adults.

Once built, the center will help create better social environments and safer communities and can even reduce long-term costs in health care and preventable incarcerations, Polzin said. However, he said, the crux of the issue is about quality of life.

"Being able to partner with our city - you can't say enough for that," Polzin said. "It means a whole lot for the individuals and their families who are affected by mental illness."

To fund the project, Gulf Bend is also partnering with the Johnson Foundation, which has agreed to match the city's community development block grant. However, Gulf Bend will need to continue seeking additional sources and donors.

Polzin said the project is part of a "greater vision" for the community.

"We have a continuum of care, but it has gaps in it because we don't have the funding," Polzin said. "Here's a great opportunity for us to receive additional funds to do an even better job ... to service the mental health needs of our community."

Gulf Bend is negotiating a deal to purchase a nearly three-acre site in the 1100 block of Nimitz Street.

The council voted in August to include Gulf Bend Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center in the agencies awarded the funding.

Mayor Will Armstrong said he supports the expansion.

"I'm in favor of it and in favor of using these funds in this manner," Armstrong said.

When Citizens Medical Center, the county-owned hospital, stopped its program, Polzin came up with a plan to fill the void, Armstrong said.

"He has presented this to us as an alternative for our community, and I'm in favor of it," Armstrong said. "He explained to us that this is something we can do and need to do."

Polzin said he cannot begin to fathom the return on investment.

"We'll see people having the opportunity to be productive in their community and contribute back as their life improves," Polzin said.

He expects reduced costs in local hospitals and reductions of incarceration.

"You can't put a dollar on that," Polzin said. "You have a return, but it's a multiplier effect."



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