SANTA MARIA - It's a unique idea that would convert the former Marian Medical Center West on East Plaza Drive in Santa Maria into a consolidated and comprehensive mental healthcare facility with a public-private partnership.
It's a proposal that, initially, has garnered widespread support across the county including from those in law enforcement and the mental healthcare community who've been pleading for such a facility for years.
The former Marian Medical Center West facility sits right next Kids Unlimited, a preschool and child daycare center on Stowell Road.
"My first reaction is its hard for me to understand why they would put it right next to a preschool where there are young children here ages 2 to 6", says Brenna Larson, owner of Kids Unlimited, "you never know what could go wrong, what could happen, someone could escape, someone could leave."
It's a shared sentiment for administrators and family members of patients at the neighboring Villa Maria skilled-nursing healthcare facility across the street from Maria Medical Center West.
In addition to an urgent psychiatric care ward operated by the County, the proposed facility would also include a substance abuse and treatment program, geriatric-psych care and Crisis and Recovery Emergency Services or CARES.
Some of the programs would be in partnership with Marian Regional Medical Center, others with other third party vendors.
North County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino is leading the charge behind the proposal.
"The problem we have now is there is no facility, there is no protocol on how to care of someone who is going through an acute psychiatric problem", Lavagnino says.
"I can see the need for it,", Brenna Larson says, "I can see the need maybe in a different location, rather than right next to a preschool."
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to spend about $15,000 on a feasibility study for the proposed mental health facility.
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