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Decision in 30 Days After Much Testimony on Mental Health Center Proposed for Chillicothe’s East End

The hearing for a mental health "Crisis Center" on April 10th, 2024, was moved from a meeting room to the much larger Chillicothe Council chambers...but it was still SRO.

Chillicothe — Two hours of testimony was given on both sides of a mental health “Crisis Center” proposed for the former railyard in Chillicothe’s East End Wednesday afternoon. But a decision could not be legally made then, so an answer will have to wait for 30 days.

This was before the City of Chillicothe Planning & Zoning Board, whose approval is needed for the conditional use of the almost 12 acres on East Main Street southeast of the overpass that is zoned “Limited Commercial.”

The proposed almost 14,000-square-foot residential facility would have eight beds, eight “chairs” for 23-hour observation, and three main focuses to help people with mental health crises (but not drug use).

Much else was said in the hearing, but the consensus appeared to be that this facility is needed…the disagreement was where it should be located.

The City of Chillicothe Planning & Zoning Board (seated) hears testimony on the mental health “Crisis Center” proposed for the former railyard in Chillicothe’s East End on April 10th, 2024.

The Paint Valley ADAMH Board is proposing it. Executive Director Melanie Swisher pointed out that they want it in a location central to the five counties they serve (Ross, Pickaway, Pike, Fayette, and Highland), with close access to freeways, and easy access for Law Enforcement.

Swisher said that the site has been vacant for decades, and they wanted to try to bring hope to the community. One of the reasons for not locating it on the Adena Regional Medical Center campus, though other mental health facilities are there, is because there is sometimes a stigma for voluntarily seeking help at a facility is near a hospital, and that sometimes someone in crisis has no transportation to get to the hospital campus.

Since they cannot directly provide services, Swisher said that what they offer is contracted out. Coleman Health Services (no relation to this reporter) was chosen for this facility. Swisher said they have facilities throughout Ohio; most appear to be in northwest and northeast Ohio.

The Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center is an interrelated agency. Barbara Mahaffey, executive director of the SPVMHC, said the Paint Valley ADAMH (addiction and mental health) Board was meant to be a passthrough for government finding in the five-county area.

Among many people who spoke at the hearing, Mahaffey said she has spent 45 years in the mental health field. As an East End resident, she says the neighborhood does not want the facility there, and asked why it wasn’t proposed for the the hospital campus.

Mahaffey said the crisis center was founded in 1977, and soon moved to the hospital campus – where the Ross County Sheriff also recently moved his dispatch center, and where a psych center is also located. She says the proposed site on Main Street will serve, and be the dropoff point, for patients from all five counties.

Hear both directors in their own words in the below video interviews after the hearing.

The proposed site is in Chillicothe’s 6th Ward. The councilman who represent that ward, Dan DeMint, declined an interview – but said that he wanted to emphasize that he is not opposed to the facility or the proposed site, but wanted to raise the awareness of and inform his constituents and neighbors in last week’s public meeting. (I apologize for making that assumption in my preview story, until DeMint corrected me.)

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Raised in Ross County, Bearcat class of '87 at Paint Valley. Wrote a column on history and historic preservation for the Chillicothe Gazette right out of high school, then a bachelors in Journalism in the OU class of '91. After starting my one-man company "Intrepid Heritage Services" in Columbus in 1997 to offer historical research, tours, and talks, I retuned to Ross County in 2003. Have been working as a radio programmer and reporter at Clear Channel / iHeart Media Southern Ohio. Started working with the Scioto Post June 27th, 2023.