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Opposition growing to proposed psychiatric hospital in Chula Vista

Despite promised security measures, opponents say it needs to be moved away from its proposed location near Eastlake homes, schools and kid-friendly businesses

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A proposed 120-bed psychiatric hospital in Chula Vista is facing growing opposition from some community members. 

While the project's supporters say there will be high-security measures in place, opponents counter it needs to be moved away from its proposed location near Eastlake homes, schools and kid-friendly businesses.

If ultimately given the green light, this psychiatric facility would open sometime in 2023.

While no one is arguing with the need for more mental health services in San Diego County, community members in Eastlake are adamant that the current location, at the end of a cul-de-sac on Showroom Place, is not the right site for it.

"The biggest concern for us is safety," said Bibi Luko, who has lived with her family in Eastlake for the past decade.

"We are so invested in this neighborhood," she added. 

Luko is one of roughly 5,000 signatories to an online petition demanding the relocation of the Eastlake Behavioral Health Hospital, an in-patient and out-patient facility proposed by Scripps Health and Acadia Healthcare.

It would be built on a 10-and-a-half acre site zoned for hospital use, at the end of a commercial park whose businesses include a pre-school, kid's gym and a swim school. The hospital would also be near residential neighborhoods.

Opponents are concerned about the possibility of patients escaping the premises, even though Acadia has made it clear that extensive security measures would be put in place, including fencing and  24/7 security. 

"Is placing a facility that requires those things next to a pre-school and a mall full of children's activities the best place for everybody?" Luko asked. "I don't think it is and the community seems to echo that."

Additional concerns range from possible increases in traffic and homelessness to decreased property values to Acadia Healthcare's track record on a nationwide level. The Tennessee-based for-profit company has garnered headlines over the years for alleged Medicare fraud as well as abuse allegations.

"It's left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths," Luko told News 8.

This project still has a long way to go before potentially breaking ground, including permits from Chula Vista's planning commission and ultimate approval from the Chula Vista city council.

Public comments on the project's draft environmental impact report must be submitted by Friday, June 25 at 5 pm. For a link to submit a comment, click here

Scripps Health and Acadia Healthcare issued this joint statement regarding the community's concerns:

"Unfortunately, behavioral health still holds a stigma in our country. It is only through education and conversations, such as the countless meetings we have had in the Chula Vista community and with its local officials, that greater understanding can be achieved.

First, it is common for behavioral health facilities to be located in close proximity to homes, schools, houses of worship, and businesses. In San Diego County, Aurora Behavioral Health in Rancho Bernardo, Bayview Behavioral Health Hospital in Chula Vista, and Sharp Mesa Vista in Kearny Mesa are located in commercial areas in close proximity to residences.

Accessibility – not proximity – to hospitals is another key factor in deciding a prudent location for a facility. Patients sent to a behavioral health facility typically no longer need medical treatment. Transportation from hospitals follow pre-arranged protocols.

Protecting the safety and security of patients, staff, and the surrounding community is of paramount importance to Scripps and Acadia and a responsibility we take very seriously. We have had numerous conversations with the community members. They have asked for certain security measures, which we have incorporated into our proposed facility. These are now the same security measures they are pointing to as foundations of their criticisms.

To reiterate, the facility’s design includes a single public ingress and egress access point at the end of the Showroom Place cul-de-sac, with no accessibility from either the side or rear area of the property. Secure fencing will surround the property’s perimeter. All access into and out of the hospital and between units within the hospital remain locked at all times and can only be opened with authorized key card access.

The hospital’s design and operations will integrate countless seen and unseen patient safety and security measures. These include but will not be limited to fencing and landscaping barriers, 24-hour security patrols, closed circuit security camera monitoring including exterior and common areas (e.g. lobby, cafeteria, visiting area), frequent patient safety checks, and controlled access to and from the facility.

As a case in point, elopements (patients leaving without authorization) at facilities of this type, in particular at Acadia behavioral health facilities, are very infrequent occurrences, comprising approximately 0.01% per 1,000 patient days. Furthermore, elopements involving disturbances to surrounding communities are practically non-existent, particularly at facilities incorporating modern design elements that would be central to the Eastlake facility’s construction. For  example, Acadia’s two California-based inpatient behavioral hospitals (Pacific Grove and San Jose) have never experienced patients elopements involving disturbances to their surrounding neighborhoods, both of which are similar (e.g. mix of commercial, retail and adjacent residential) to East Chula Vista.

Eastlake Behavioral Health Hospital will be a part of the solution to a great unmet need in this region – replacing stigma with hope."

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