Saginaw Council to spend $5 million on new behavioral health clinic in town

Saginaw Council to spend $5 million on new behavioral health clinic in town

SAGINAW, MI — Saginaw will donate $5 million for a new $15 million behavioral health clinic in the community.

At a meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, the Saginaw City Council voted 7-1 to invest in the Saginaw-based clinic using part of the US$52 million Bailout Act stimulus fund. .

Officials said the behavioral health clinic project is tied to a larger $100 million investment in the Saginaw Waterfront Medical Corridor. Many details of the $100 million project have been withheld from the public — including the behavioral health clinic — with some advocates muted in part by nondisclosure agreements. Local business leaders said the project would be largely privately funded rather than publicly funded.

Yet other government agencies have invested $100 million in the initiative. In October, the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners voted to spend $5 million of the American Rescue Plan Act’s $37 million on the project.

The $15 million behavioral health clinic proposal has been linked to partner agencies including CMU Medical Education Partners, an organization that involves a collaboration between Central Michigan University and two Saginaw-based hospitals: Ascension St. Mary’s and Covenant HealthCare.

Dr. Samuel J. Shaheen, president and CEO of CMU Medical Education Partners, addressed Saginaw City Council ahead of the group’s vote on Monday to invest in the clinic.

“I can assure you it’s for the public good,” said Shaheen, whose family over the decades has invested in multimillion-dollar developments in the area.

“We have a unique opportunity to do something transformational, and I would ask you to put Saginaw first and make the right investment to launch our community to bring jobs and revitalization and access to the most underprivileged. served.

Saginaw Mayor Pro Tem Annie Boensch said she supports the project because of the growing demand for mental health services in the community.

“Our children need access to mental health professionals who know what they are doing; adults need it too,” she said. “It’s too precious an opportunity.”

Mayor Brenda Moore said the need to address mental health was “on the rise”.

Saginaw Councilman Michael Flores was the only one to vote against the $5 million investment.

He said the price was too high for just one project, given that other mental health service organizations have also requested support through the city’s American Rescue Plan Act money.

“It’s not my philosophy to give millions of dollars to millionaires,” he said. “We have too many people who are already in need, who have solid plans, who have worked with the city, who have already lined up, who are able to help our city just as much as this proposed business.”

Later in the meeting, Flores and Councilor Monique Lamar-Silvia were the council’s only two votes in favor of a $600,000 stimulus investment to hire staff and support a training program for mental health therapists. at the Saginaw-based McDowell Healing Arts Center.

The effort to invest in this project failed by a council vote of 2 to 6.

Councilor Autumn Scherzer was absent from the meeting and her votes.

The $600,000 investment in the McDowell Healing Arts Center was not recommended in a report released in August by a board-appointed advisory panel. The $5 million investment in behavioral health clinics was among the approved initiatives.

“The Committee understood that this investment goes beyond just mental health,” the report said. “It will be an opportunity for economic development, attract many businesses, a site for future growth attracting some of the brightest medical minds in the state, and a great infrastructure project that would provide jobs and opportunities for many residents. »

After the council’s vote on Monday, it was unclear whether the developers of the behavioral health clinic had secured the full $15 million they estimated the facility would cost.

Monday’s vote was not the first time the council has spent much of its federal stimulus money.

In September, the group approved spending of $11.6 million on four programs partly related to the revitalization of Saginaw’s aging housing stock.

Earlier that month, the council voted to spend up to $1.3 million to demolish the remaining buildings of the old Saginaw County Fairgrounds in the city, although that decision could be reversed. .

In May, council unanimously approved spending $864,750 in hazard pay for city employees who rendered service during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first stimulus spending was approved in February, when the board approved its contract with Guidehouse, a consultant helping Saginaw with its stimulus spending strategy. The 3-year deal could cost up to $850,000, though city officials said the final cost will likely be less than that amount.

The $52 million stimulus package set aside for Saginaw arrived via a US $1.9 trillion bailout law signed into law in March 2021. The stimulus package provided $350 billion to local governments and state. Michigan municipalities received $10.9 billion from the stimulus bill.

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