The Rev. John Garlington and his wife, Yvonne, knew there could be no distinction between a healthy body and a healthy mind. They believed a healthy society was important medicine. And so they advocated for quality education, access to jobs, fair and unbiased policing, and services for the poor, the hungry and the homeless.
Now a worthy monument marks their name — Cascadia Behavioral Health’s Garlington Health Center Campus.
A health center offering a pharmacy and behavioral health services stands beside a chic-looking affordable apartment complex on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd..
Outside, a parking lot and brick-laid, table-filled courtyard, where residents and visitors gather amid young trees and metal art, connect the buildings. Inside, the clinic is bright and modern, with bold colors, tall windows and a wide lobby.
By placing the campus in the traditional center of Portland’s African American community, providers can offer culturally specific services to residents who, in recent years, have been forced out by gentrification.
Last week, elected officials, community leaders, nonprofit staff and family of members of the Garlington family gathered in the afternoon sun to celebrate the complex’s grand opening. Guests hugged and chatted and toured the new buildings while children ducked through the crowd with plates of sugar cookies.
The Rev. T. Allen Bethel, who took over as pastor of the Maranatha Church after Garlington passed away in 1986, shook hands with congregants and legislators.
“There is a great need for mental health and physical health services, but also for community,” he said. “For the African American community, there's a core need for family and extended family. Many people are dealing with mental health issues, but then you move them to an area where you don't have support,” he said. “That's why this center is so important.”
Behavioral health and physical health are inextricably linked, and good health requires balancing both the mind and body, said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. The third pillar of good health is stable housing.
“This campus offers hope. It reminds us that people living with mental illness and addiction are not, and never should be, alone,” she said. “Dr. Garlington and his wife, Yvonne, recognized we are all imperfect, and that with a helping hand and support, people who are often overlooked and forgotten can heal.”
The project began in 2006 as a simple plan for affordable housing.
“We dreamed of health center, but it seemed like a dream too far to reach,” Cascadia CEO Derald Walker said Friday. “It's a phenomenal thing about integrated healthcare. For so long we have failed to combine the body with the brain. But if the brain isn't healthy, the body isn’t healthy.”
That idea developed into plans for a $30 million block-wide complex that broke ground two years ago, with support from private donations, community foundations and government tax credits.
The campus is composed of two new buildings in the traditionally African American Eliot neighborhood, the Garlington Health Center and the Garlington Place Apartments.
Garlington Health Center, which opened last month, is a 24,000-square-foot, two-story health clinic providing mental health and addiction recovery, primary care with an onsite pharmacy, and wellness classes.
Adjacent to the clinic are the Garlington Place Apartments, which opened this spring. The 52-unit affordable housing apartment building provides 10 apartments for Cascadia clients, 10 apartments for veterans and 32 apartments for displaced north and northeast Portland residents.
“Can we all say ‘wraparound services?’” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland. The audience laughed and then echoed his words.
The late Rev. Garlington Jr. and his wife, Yvonne, “were in wraparound services before we knew what to call it,” he said. “Spiritual services. Racial justice. Community development. Law enforcement for the people. Wraparound services.”
Blumenauer’s voice cracked as he spoke.
“We've got some major challenges and we all know that. We're swimming upstream because of success,” he said. “I don't think we were fully prepared for how rapidly success would take place and we didn't provide for everyone to share in that success.”
The Garlingtons’ son Marc was 17 when his parents died in a car accident in 1986. The family engraved a fitting epitaph on the couple’s headstone: “They were sent to be God’s servants.”
His parents were selfless, Marc Garlington told those who gathered Friday. He challenged the audience to take his parents lead, and serve rather than seek to be served.
“We have an opportunity to make a difference, to touch people, to change things,” he said. “You have to decide. Do you want to be selfless or selfish? They say, ‘Vote.’ They say, ‘Lift somebody up.’ Whatever it is, you decide what you want to do. But do something new.”