Mountain View Voice Staff Writer Malea Martin contributed to this story.
Santa Clara County broke ground Wednesday on a first-of-its-kind behavioral health center for children and adolescents.
The new mental health center in San Jose, which will be linked to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, will operate inpatient and outpatient medical and psychiatric care to children and adolescents in need of behavioral health care, as well as have a separate floor for adults.
The center fills an important gap in behavioral health care for youth in the county. Access to child and adolescent inpatient psychiatric care is limited in Santa Clara County, and the new center will be the very first County-operated inpatient facility specifically for children and adolescents in need of that care.
Children and adolescents who have needed short-term psychiatric hospitalization have been sent to facilities as far away as Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and even Sacramento counties, taking them far away from the support of family, caregivers and their own behavioral care team.
"Separating these kids from their families at one of the toughest times in their lives, that's just hell on them," Supervisor Joe Simitian, who serves as chair of the county Board of Supervisors' Health and Hospital Committee and who first proposed the project in June 2015, said in a county statement. "I'm worried, frankly, that the specter of long-distance treatment currently deters kids and families from seeking the help they need in the first place."
When the Board of Supervisors approved construction on the new center in 2017, 689 Santa Clara County youth were admitted to out-of-area psychiatric hospitals, far from their homes and support systems. The average stay spanned about six days.
County leaders said the future facility will be unique because it will house multiple programs under one roof and provide a centralized location to support the needs of anyone who relies on the county services.
The center will consolidate and integrate behavioral health services that are currently provided elsewhere throughout the Valley Medical Center campus into the new facility with 35 inpatient beds, emergency psychiatric services and mental health urgent care for children and adolescents. It will also have 42 adult inpatient psychiatric beds and services in a separate, secured part of the building.
Rovina Nimbalkar, Executive Director of the Santa Clara County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), called the center and the services it will offer "life-changing" for Santa Clara County.
“Now our youth can get the help they need close to home, close to the support networks they have and need to achieve better mental health," Nimbalkar said in the county statement.
The 207,000-square-foot facility will be linked by skyway to Valley Medical Center's Emergency Department to allow patients who have co-occurring medical issues to be treated on-site.
The current construction schedule calls for the project to be completed and open to patients in late 2025.
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