Two meetings to collect public comment on the proposed Visalia Wellness and Recovery Center are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency will host the events, seeking to provide information about the wellness center’s operations, use and security.
As explained by HHSA, the proposed center will provide a safe, non-treatment oriented social environment to promote recovery from mental health issues and enhance wellness.
The proposed center will offer a variety of rehabilitation and life-enhancing activities, including budgeting workshops, cooking classes, and arts and crafts for self-expression, officials said. In addition, the center will also have library and computer stations to promote education, employment and social skills and recreation opportunities. Lastly, the center will also have peer-to-peer and family groups to promote wellness, recovery and resiliency skills.
As proposed, the center is slated to open at 1223 S. Lovers Lane, near the intersection of Tulare Avenue and Lovers Lane in southeast Visalia.
The meetings come on the heels of strong opposition from residents in the area. However, county supervisors already approved the purchase of a building for the proposed center.
At previous Tulare County Board of Supervisors meetings, homeowners have spoken up against the project, bringing up concerns about the center’s location, the way the county went about the project and safety.
Ed Zimmerman, who lives in the neighborhood, said he was concerned about the proposed center because, if it opens, it would be next to a residential area, a condominium duplex housing seniors and four blocks from Pinkham School.
In addition, Zimmerman complained about the short notice given about the project.
“We are hoping you reconsider this decision. The location is unsuitable,” he said. “We are serious about this. We aren’t going away.”
Vicki Taylor, another neighborhood resident, said the proposed center has the residents on alert.
“We are concerned. Our community is concerned,” she said. “The neighborhood is concerned.”
Similar to Zimmerman, Taylor proposed locating the wellness center at the building the county bought on Akers Road. She also criticized county officials for using its exempt status in purchasing the building. By going that route, county officials sidestepped the normal process for similar building projects. The property is located within Visalia city limits.
Taylor said the county “strong-armed” Visalia.
She also called on the supervisors to consider the location’s proximity to Pinkham School.
“Think about the children at Pinkham School,” she said.
The proposed center’s location is also near Annie R. Mitchell and Mineral King elementary schools.
Patsy Chester, another resident who opposes the project, said 350 residents signed a petition rejecting the center.
“I know my neighborhood requires integrity in leadership and management rather than what the supervisors have demonstrated in this matter,” she said.
When she addressed the supervisors, Chester read from a letter she had delivered to the board.
HHSA is hoping to use the meetings to educate the residents about how the agency plans on addressing concerns.
The proposed center will help provide the services approved by the Mental Health Services Act in 2004, HHSA said in a statement.
In the same statement, HHSA stated that the center:
• Is a community-based wellness center.
• Will serve individuals who are within or advanced in their wellness and recovery journey and will be an alcohol and drug-free environment.
• Will offer services which assists in sustaining wellness as well as promoting increased self-sufficiency and community integration.
• Is a non-judgmental environment that focuses on reinforcing wellness by fostering hope, empowerment and self-responsibility.
Also, HHSA said a seven-foot high fence will be added to a vacant lot next to the center. There will also be a designated smoking area and a walking path will be built to route traffic from a bus stop on Lovers Lane.
The meetings are free and open to the public.
How to attend
What: Health & Human Services Agency community listening sessions
When: 7:00 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: 210, 210 W. Center Ave., Visalia
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