A rendering of the Mead Valley Wellness Village.
A rendering of the Mead Valley Wellness Village project. (Courtesy RUHS-BH)

The Mead Valley Wellness Village is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors today approved two resolutions and an ordinance allowing the project to continue moving forward.

“Before the board today is a series of actions moving the wellness village project in Mead Valley forward,” Dr. Matthew Chang, director of Riverside University Health System-Behavioral Health (RUHS-BH), said.

The first resolution approved a mitigated negative declaration, which states that the project has been evaluated and it was determined that, with mitigation, the project would not have a significant impact on the environment. The second resolution allows RUHS-BH to use the bond revenue to reimburse itself, though Chang said this was just to give the department more flexibility.

“As a note, the department is not planning on reimbursing any expenditures since it’s using those to help meet its match requirements for the grant,” he said. “But, we would like to have the flexibility to do so.”

The ordinance allows RUHS-BH, through a public-private partnership, to obtain tax-exempt bond financing for the estimated $500 million project. According to the staff report, roughly 15% of the project’s funding will come from federal and state grants and the remaining 85% will be covered by the bonds that will be paid over time by RUHS-BH through a lease agreement with P3 Riverside Holdings, LLC.

The Mead Valley Wellness Village will be located on roughly 20 acres of county-owned land at the northwest corner of Harvill and Water avenues in the unincorporated community of Mead Valley and will feature green spaces, meditation gardens, a market and cafe and pet hotel.

“The architects, the development team and the RUHS team I think have really outdone themselves in terms of what the wellness village will look like once completed,” Chang said. “It really will be a state-of-the-art campus.”

In terms of healthcare, the campus will be able to provide community health and wellness services, children and youth services, patient and family treatment housing and behavioral health care.

“First and foremost, it expands access to healthcare that is critically needed, it’ll enhance recreation access, increase access to healthy foods and there’s mindful land use of the property,” Chang said.

Throughout the 2.5-year construction period, the project’s investment impact will be more than $600 million with an estimated 2,600 jobs created, according to an economic impact study done by Beacon Economics. Once the facility is up and running, Beacon estimates the facility will have an annual impact of more than $78 million and will lead to more than 800 jobs.

And while the potential economic impact of the project is clear, those who spoke during the public hearing highlighted the importance of having facilities like this in the county.

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“I’m currently a consumer of Riverside County’s substance abuse program and treatment,” Rosa Banuelos said. “I’ve been with the program since May 2023, and I’ve greatly benefitted from it. Today, I’m 375 days clean.”

By participating in the program, Banuelos said she was not only able to regain custody of her children, who were removed from her care due to her drug use, but also found a way to give back.

“Because of them, I have acquired the things that I have today,” she said. “I am currently a substance abuse counselor-in-training, so I am waiting to complete my training so I may obtain a career in substance abuse [recovery].”

Brenda Scott, executive director of NAMI Mt. San Jacinto, said she first got involved after her son started struggling with his own mental health.

“We’re excited that this wellness village is going to be the first behavioral health urgent care for children,” Brenda Scott said. “There is nothing right now in Riverside County as far as inpatient [care] for children.”

Scott said she was able to get her son into a private hospital back when it was available in the county, but said that she regularly hears from parents struggling to access the care their children need. It’s a struggle that Dolores DeMartino, president of NAMI Temecula Valley, said she knows all too well.

“Navigating the mental health care system and realizing the lack of resources has been the second most difficult thing that I have ever had to do next to accepting my son’s diagnosis,” she said. “My son Anthony is a bright, intelligent high school honor student [who] graduated at the age of 16 with aspirations of a career in politics.”

Three years later, DeMArtino said her son received a bipolar diagnosis, a diagnosis that she said transformed her “totally ambitious,” son into someone who is withdrawn and isolated.

“You can’t even imagine the devastation it is to know that my son is out there on the streets, homeless, probably hungry, and due to his illness does not want our help,” she said.

Supervisor Karen Spiegel thanked those who spoke for sharing their stories with the board.

“Your stories were very touching, and I think this is what this is all about,” she said. “Dr. Chang has been your biggest advocate and all his department. This is much needed.”

Jeff Van Wagenen, county chief executive officer, said that as of this time, neither the project’s construction nor operation costs are expected to come from the county’s general fund.

In other board action: The Riverside County Board of Supervisors recognized four county employees who have been with the county for more than 25 years: Brian MacGavin, program director at the Emergency Management Department; Johnny Perez, administrative services officer, and Brent Casey, deputy director of environmental protection and oversight, both with the Environmental Health Department; and Victor Regalado, correctional officer at the Probation Department.

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the county’s website.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.