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City, JAHMI close to deal on Salmon Creek building

Mental health agency wants to consolidate offices near hospital

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

The Juneau Assembly on Monday gave City Manager Dave Palmer the go-ahead to finalize a lease and purchase agreement for the city's Salmon Creek building with the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc.

JAMHI currently splits services between the Salmon Creek building and its downtown headquarters on N. Franklin Street. The organization wants to consolidate its operations and continue to have an emergency service presence near the hospital, according to JAMHI Executive Director Brenda Knapp.

Palmer told the Assembly the city wants to lease the Salmon Creek building to JAMHI for one dollar a year for three years. According to Knapp, JAMHI wants to sell its downtown headquarters, assessed at $675,000, and then buy the Salmon Creek building for $1,056,000 with the balance to be financed over 20 years at 5 percent interest. JAMHI estimates it could take three or more years to sell its headquarters downtown.

JAMHI now offers emergency, mental health and part of its psychiatric services on the first floor of the Salmon Creek building. They essentially are the same services the city provided in the building before transferring social and mental health services to nonprofit groups last year, according to Knapp.

If an agreement is reached, JAMHI would move its case management, fiscal and administrative departments to the second floor of the Salmon Creek building, Knapp said. The organization has separate independent living units, a long-term residential program and a crisis respite program that would not be affected, she said.

"The pressure for us is we need more space and we need to consolidate in space. There are efficiencies lost in having our main operation spread out," Knapp said.

The Salmon Creek building was remodeled to function as a mental health center and improvements such as soundproof walls contribute to patient confidentiality, Assistant City Manager Donna Pierce said. JAMHI would pay for utilities, operations and maintenance of the Salmon Creek building if the lease is approved, City Lands and Resources Manager Steve Gilbertson said.

Palmer said the building works well for mental health programs, and JAMHI needs the assurance it can buy the Salmon Creek building so the organization can sell its downtown offices.

"This is more than just a building and a real estate deal," he said. "If we put it on the market it adds uncertainty to programs."

Assembly member Jim Powell asked if city had discussed the building's availability with other organizations. He said REACH might be interested and urged city officials to improve communication efforts to make the transition as smooth as possible.

REACH provides residential and vocational programs along with intervention and support for people with disabilities, according to Executive Director Rod Moline. He said his organization was interested in the Salmon Creek building when it heard it was on the table last fall, but hadn't pursued the option once it heard the city was entering into a lease with JAMHI.

"If it doesn't work out with JAMHI, we'd be interested," Moline said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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