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Saint John's Plan Includes $10 Million for New Mental Health Campus

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By Jorge Casuso

March 28, 2022 -- The City Council last Tuesday approved a Master Plan for the expansion of Providence Saint John’s Health Center that includes $10 million in funding for a mental health campus on the Westside.

The campus -- which will help tackle substance abuse, trauma and other mental health issues -- is based on a similar program in Orange County that City officials hope will help address the homelessness crisis sweeping the Los Angeles region.

Before the final votes on Tuesday, the Council and Saint John's representatives engaged in last-ditch negotiations that will expedite the $10 million the City will use as seed money for the new campus, a collaboration between Saint John's, Cedars Sinai, Kaiser, UCLA and County mental health.

"One of the biggest problems we have is that we don't have help for all these people suffering from mental health issues," said Mayor Sue Himmelrich, who pushed for the campus.

"If we're going to solve this homelessness issue we're going to need as many strategies as possible," she said. "This would be focused on catching people before they fall."

Under the negotiated deal, Saint John's will pay $5 million upfront, and the balance within three years if the developer acts quickly to submit plans for review, which the City has agreed to fast track.

Scrapped from the plan was the addition of 15 mental health beds at the hospital.

The new mental health campus was approved as part of the second phase expansion of the Saint John’s Campus at 2121 Santa Monica Boulevard, which calls for the construction of 680,000 square feet of development for new wellness, health care and medical research facilities.

The Master Plan, which will be active for 17 years, also includes on-site childcare, a transportation demand management program and the Child & Family Development Center Youth and Family Program.

In addition, Saint John’s must provide "increased annual cash grant support to other non-profit organizations who provide a range of programs to address homelessness and other critical health and social service needs in the community," City officials said.

Under the Master Plan, each building proposed for construction on the site bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard., 20th Street, Arizona Avenue. and 23rd Street will require Planning Commission review and approval.

Last minute changes to the Plan included making the new Saint John's conference center available 12 times a year, instead of four, to groups of up to 30 people.

It also gives first priority for 10 percent of additional spaces in childcare for children of Santa Monica residents who don't work at Saint John's.

In addition to approving the Master Plan, the Council adopted the Third Amendment to the Development Agreement, certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and approved related planning documents.

All the actions were approved on a 6 to 0 vote, with Councilmemberr Lana Negrete abstaining.

A Development Agreement for the first phase of the project was executed in 1998 after the 1994 Northridge earthquake battered the half century old campus. Construction was completed in 2013; Phase two has been underway since 2015.

The Master Plan has undergone "significant revisions in response to City comments that have been focused on creating a plan that supports orderly, phased, and integrated development at the Saint John’s campus," City officials said.

"Good neighbor conditions were prioritized by the City throughout the review process."

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