An overview of the proposed Hemet Wellness Village as seen in a December 2022 Riverside University Health System presentation. (Source: Boulder Associates)

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors last week voted 3-0 to move a controversial wellness village project from Hemet to the unincorporated community of Mead Valley.

“So the item before you involves a wellness village and moving this wellness village project from Hemet to Mead Valley,” RUHS-Behavioral Health Director Dr. Matthew Chang said. “As a refresher, a wellness village is a campus designed to increase healthcare access while focusing on social determinants of health.”

The project, as currently proposed, would provide primary care, pharmacy, dentistry, mammograms and x-rays, WIC and behavioral health services and housing placement options, Chang said. RUHS has already secured approximately $80.4 million in grant funding for the project.

“I understand why residents or anybody who lives nearby would be concerned to have this really large facility coming into their community,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “Everybody wants these services in the county, but nobody wants these services in their neighborhood. It’s evident just by the fact that it has gone through, we’re now on the third location.”

The Riverside University Health Systems project was initially planned for Coachella before being relocated to a parcel of county-owned land in the city of Hemet, where it was met with staunch opposition from the city council and was even a topic of discussion as the council interviewed District 1 candidates.

Chang also noted that the wellness village is estimated to create approximately 600 jobs and generate a “significant amount of revenue,” for the surrounding area.

“We have heard over and over from this board regarding the need to bring more services into unincorporated areas,” Chang said. “We know there is a need based in part on the crisis calls we currently receive. The wellness village addresses those concerns by bringing critical services to an unincorporated area.”

Jeffries said that he had spoken with Perris Mayor Michael Vargas who was “extremely supportive” of having the wellness village adjacent to the city.

“One thing that I’m really happy about is this is not another freaking warehouse,” Jeffries said. “This is a new service into a community that could use the support and create jobs for residents, even if they’re not highly skilled jobs, at least they’re local jobs, and they are a stepping stone, and I view that as a very important opportunity for residents.

“So I see nothing but positives here,” he continued. “I think it’s a great investment.”

Chang said the project is expected to break ground next summer with completion expected by the end of 2026.

“There has been a little leeway on time, but those are the general timeframes that we’re working with,” he said.

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