Construction continues on the new Johnson Center for Youth Excellence for the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis. Although the building itself is starting to come together, the funds needed to finish the project still need to be gathered, and the club has yet to find a healthcare provider for their mental health services before the project can come to a close.
Helen Higgins, the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, explained that there are two numbers in their minds: $6 million for construction of the facility, including a second floor that is only a shell, and an additional $600,000 to build out the second floor and make it ready for use.
Higgins elaborated that the Club is only $90,000 short of the first $6 million goal, “which is phenomenal.” She praised community members for supporting the project, and of the remaining needs said, “We are really hoping that Santa will be really generous somehow this year.”
Mental Health Provider to Be Determined
When asked about the mental and physical health services for the second floor, Higgins said they had not yet secured a healthcare provider to lease out the space, but that they were still moving ahead with the plan while talking to various healthcare providers.
“We originally were going to partner with Trillium, but they pulled out on December 7 of last year,” she explained. “Trillium said they had overextended in other projects. I think the teen who committed suicide last summer had a big impact on their cash flow. They didn’t think they would be able to meet the fundraising commitment in the time allotted.”
Higgins also noted that Trillium “wanted the project to go forward and fully supported the idea, they just couldn’t be a partner in a financial role.”
“I’d love to be able to say ‘here’s our partner,’” continued Higgins, “but right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the healthcare field about how people will get paid; there’s concern about overextending or expanding into another location. I totally understand their concern.”
When talking about mental health services and the importance of them, Higgins likened it to how providing dental services in their current space has changed kids’ attitudes about the field.
“We took the fear out of dental care. The kids go into the dental clinic when they have any issue, and it is very normal for the kids now. When you put the services where the kids are, you knock down barriers of access,” she said.
Higgins added that the Boys & Girls Club is dedicated to helping all kids lead full lives and take advantage of help when necessary.
“We really want to destigmatize mental health. We think that by normalizing it and putting it in their environment, and putting those professionals near our kids, we anticipate that we will be able to make it another part of our wellness conversation.”
Helping Teens Become Healthy Citizens
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 5 to 24. According to Higgins, mental health services would help Corvallis teens with anxiety, depression, and preventing anything more serious from happening.
“We want to focus on prevention because we have relationships with kids and families, so we get kids and teens who tell us what is going on with them early, then we can help connect them with people who can help them sort through those feelings,” Higgins said.
In addition to mental health services, the vision is that the center will offer medical services access in the evenings and on weekends for kids and adolescents. During the day, the center will also serve as a larger space for career preparation and civic outreach initiatives the club already conducts.
The Boys & Girls Club has been in conversation with the superintendent of Philomath schools to see about providing services to them, and they are considering bringing seventh-period Corvallis high schoolers to the club to participate in their T3 job preparation program, while getting some high school credit in the meantime.
Currently, the Boys & Girls Club serves over 400 kids, and within that number, over 150 teenagers. With the new center, they anticipate they will double the number of teens in the first year alone, providing job skills and strengthening the area’s future workforce.
Learn more about the Boys & Girls Club’s new center and programs at their website, bgccorvallis.org.