NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County seeking builder, speeds bidding process for badly needed downtown resource center at nexus of mental health, homelessness

July 16, 2019

Multnomah County purchased the Bushong & Co. building in Spring 2019 for renovation into a mental health resource center
Multnomah County is moving forward with plans to renovate the recently purchased Bushong & Co building, at 333 SW Park Ave. downtown, for use as a badly needed behavioral health resource center offering peer services, shelter and transitional housing for people with mental illness who are experiencing homelessness.

The County today put out a call for interested builders to propose a contract for the estimated $12 million to $15 million construction project. The County is also expediting its competitive bidding process — compressing its regular administrative procedures — to open this urgent downtown priority as soon as summer 2021.

The builder will join architecture and engineering firm Carleton Hart, which is already under contract with the County to provide design and other pre-construction services on capital projects. 

The four-story Behavioral Health Resource Center will be approximately 27,000 square feet and include day center “living room” space, laundry and shower facilities, a social service resource center, a mail room, and a computer lab. Its upper floors will provide shelter beds and transitional housing.

The center will include an adjacent parking lot, also purchased by the County, that will offer participants fresh air and a place to gather away from surrounding sidewalks.

“The need in downtown Portland is urgent and undeniable,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “Too many of our neighbors are suffering in full view of strangers, and right now, they don’t have a place to go. So we’ve put this project on a fast track.”

The request for proposals issued today also was advertised in a local newspaper and was sent to more than 400 parties who have registered with the County as potentially interested contractors. The procurement team, using a competitive procurement process similar to that on previous County projects, plans to award the contract by early September — while maintaining the County’s commitment to equity, transparency and competition.

In addition, the County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division is working closely with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, peer-run nonprofits and mental health advocates to finalize programming that prioritizes people who are most likely to experience chronic homelessness.

The behavioral health resource center will fill a gap in a broader behavioral health and homelessness response system that’s already working to meet the many needs of people in crisis, from those in immediate mental health crisis, to those with chronic mental illness.

"People bring all their life experiences with them when they seek treatment. This behavioral health resource center embodies that," said Dr. Patricia Charles-Heathers, director of the Multnomah County Health Department. "And it will add to a continuum of services in our community that cares for people at different times in different ways, based on where they are and what they need."

That system includes the Unity Center for Behavioral Health, mental health and addiction services provided by nonprofit partners, County-managed secure treatment facilities and adult foster care homes, and street outreach workers, shelter beds, transitional housing and supportive housing funded through the Joint Office. 

But those programs, including approximately 650 mental health treatment beds, still don’t fill the void left by federal disinvestment and the state’s decision to move people out of hospitalized settings. Patients were supposed to be transitioned to community-based care. But most of those community-based services never developed.

More recently, the region’s housing market has compounded this crisis, with rents rising faster than incomes for people with low or limited incomes. To afford a fair-market one-bedroom apartment in Multnomah County ($1,200 a month) without being rent burdened, a household must earn more than $4,100 a month.

But that’s impossible for nearly 20,000 people in Multnomah County who’ve been certified as disabled by the federal government, many because of behavioral health issues. Currently, federal payments for those community members top out at less than $800 a month — forcing many to seek limited local resources so they can avoid homelessness and manage their chronic conditions. 

Operating this new behavioral health resource center is expected to cost $5 million a year. Chair Kafoury has committed to investing the necessary resources, even if it means making difficult choices in other parts of the County’s budget.

But she’s also instructed Mental Health and Addiction Services to continue working with community partners as well as the State of Oregon, the City of Portland and medical care providers around resources, capacity and sustainability. 

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED

To read the County’s request for a proposed contract in detail, click here

Anyone who wants to respond to the County’s request can click here (registration required).

To review the most current list of bid/proposal opportunities in Multnomah County, click here.

Contact: Denis Theriault, Multnomah County: denis.theriault@multco.us, 503-893-9430

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