Column: Fairview site could be a cornerstone for addiction and mental health services

The Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa is slated for closure. Officials are debating the best use for the land.
(File photo / Daily Pilot)

You can’t talk about addressing the mental health crisis in this county without including the issues of homelessness and addiction.

This is why a coalition of addiction and mental health experts from Hoag and St. Joseph hospitals, as well as local and state government officials, have been meeting to come up with a plan.

No one facility or community can bear the burden, but networked campuses countywide just might.

Could a portion of the Fairview Developmental Center property in Costa Mesa be one of these?

Fairview is slated to close in 2021, with a proposed plan to transition residents into smaller regional centers.

The state Department of Developmental Services has the ability to lease the land to a nonprofit organization or sell it without any say-so from local city or county officials.

Faced with this possibility, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) introduced Senate Bill 59 .

Co-authored with Sens. Ted Gaines (R-Redding), Mike McGuire (D-Eureka) and Jim Beall (D-San Jose), the bill would give local cities and counties a voice in repurposing the land.

Now that Gov. Jerry Brown is ready to sign a new budget, and there’s $2 million allocated for a site study for Fairview, Moorlach says it’s time to move SB59 forward.

Moorlach has been meeting with Hoag and St. Joseph and county and Costa Mesa city officials, as the group looks to address mental health issues and homelessness as part of a larger county network.

“We are meeting on a regular basis, and the coalition we are building is phenomenal,” Moorlach says.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley says of the 105 acres at Fairview Developmental, 50% could be set aside for single-family housing, 25% for open space, 15% for mental health-institutional services of some sort and 10% to be determined.

I’m hearing 25% for mental health, however, is being discussed by the coalition.

The mental health aspect of this plan would be part of a larger countywide public-private partnership.

Costa Mesa City Manager Tom Hatch likes the regional approach because trying to solve the county’s homeless and mental health crisis with just one site isn’t the answer.

Hatch wants help available in every community.

As part of this coalition’s research, a group including Hatch, Foley and former assistant City Manager Rick Francis, hospital and county mental health officials, made a trip to Haven for Hope in San Antonio.

Haven for Hope is a successful model of how combining services with a public-private partnership, including local nonprofits, state and local agencies, can make a difference in addressing mental health services, addiction and homelessness.

A center there allows law enforcement to bring those needing to sober up only for the night as an alternative to taking up space in jails. Individuals opting for longer addiction care programs can stay.

Haven of Hope also has transitional housing for homeless families, along with more than 80 service providers, to help folks get back on their feet with training and job skills.

And it has a shelter for those looking for a safe haven for a night, rather than a long-term stay.

With a capacity of 1,500, the Haven of Hope model could be applied here.

In theory the concept being explored holds promise, but will political difference hamper progress?

Though Moorlach has reached across the political aisle, there are those with reservations.

Foley, a Democrat, is concerned the state’s assessment study could value Fairview at a high price, making it prohibitive for any kind of affordable project.

She questions why there isn’t another O.C. senator supporting Moorlach’s bill. Until I told her two Democratic senators co-authored it, she was unaware of the bipartisan cooperation and went online to look up the bill’s progress for herself.

Foley admits her trip to Haven of Hope was enlightening, and there are components — like having service providers for the homeless in one location and the transitional housing concept — that could work here.

But she isn’t counting out another concept being considered by the city for Fairview: affordable housing. And she tells me there have been talks with a provider.

There’s certainly a need to address the full scope of local mental health issues. The coalition’s plan may be a good start to a comprehensive solution, barring politics getting in the way.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at