After hearing advocates for a new medical office and rehabilitation complex extol its virtues, the El Centro Planning Commission voted 5-0 on Feb. 13 to issue a conditional-use permit for the project.
The one-story, 10,600-square-foot facility would be built on a 1.28-acre lot at 2354 S. Second St., south of Interstate 8 behind The Home Depot store.
The commission’s vote means the developer is clear to proceed with building the facility, Commission Chairman Aaron Popejoy stated in an e-mail following the meeting.
The applicant for the proposed project is BH-IC Real Estate, LLC. Adriana Nava, a city of El Centro associate planner, presented the proposal to the commission saying the project offers the community a positive benefit.
“The proposed medical office and social rehabilitation facility would not be detrimental to existing uses permitted in the Tourist Commercial Zone,” she said. “The proposed facility would provide a needed medical service for the Imperial Valley community.”
She added the site is surrounded by medical offices such as Accent Care and Fresenius Kidney Care, as well as nonmedical offices such as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and Work Training Center.
While the site is vacant, Nava noted there are adequate infrastructure connections in place to serve the facility.
The medical office would be 3,350 square feet while the remaining 7,250 square feet would consist of social rehabilitation space, according to commission documents. The facility plans include a maximum of 15 resident rooms, nurse stations, outdoor patio, and an amenity area that incorporates substantial landscaping. There would be 39 parking spaces.
Commissioner Richard Inman inquired about the possible impact of a facility housing residential patients. Patrick Ziemer, chief executive officer of Alvarado Parkway Institute, an in-patient behavioral health and addictive disorders hospital in La Mesa, spoke in support of the project.
He remarked one of the challenges of behavioral health treatment is when clients are forced to go outside of their community for in-patient care. To be eligible patients must be facing a mental health issue and a typical stay would be from seven to 14 days. By keeping Imperial Valley patients local, treatment success rates would increase substantially because friends and family are close by, he said.
“The range of impairment could be from a brief episode of mental illness, if a relationship ends or there’s a death in the family, all the way to schizophrenia or bi-polar disease,” he said. “But these are individuals already living here. They’re your neighbor, co-worker or boss. Mental illness does not discriminate. We’re also looking at the possibility of doing private insurance out-patient service.”
Juan Flores, a counselor with Imperial County Behavioral Health Services, noted the agency is limited with outpatient mental health service. He said he supports this type of facility because it deals with a similar type of client often referred by law enforcement.
“This service would be a preferable diversion from utilization of the emergency room, law enforcement or hospitalization,” he said. “This facility will provide everything (an) in-patient hospital offers in terms of psychiatric support and medical support to stabilize a patient. Having this office helps.”