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Mental Health Association will move to Washington Street

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The Mental Health Association in Jefferson County will have a new start just in time for the new year.

Executive Director Korin A. Scheible said the agency will relocate from 724 State St. to 425 Washington St. just before Christmas. The move will better accommodate the agency’s needs, as it recently restructured some programming and positions, she said.

“The layout is better; it’s more functional,” Ms. Scheible said. “It’s actually a smaller space, but I think it’ll be a more home-like environment.”

The agency moved into its State Street office, which formerly housed Cleveland Funeral Home, in November 2003. Ms. Scheible said the agency has to be out of its current 6,500-square-foot space, and a few apartments, by Dec. 23, and will then have a new home at the nearly 5,500-square-foot Washington Street building, formerly owned by Hospice of Jefferson County.

Rent at the State Street site is about $5,000 per month, she said, but utilities soon were going to be charged separately. Ms. Scheible said the agency will commit to a 10-year lease, and pay about $7,000 per month for rent, utilities and property maintenance of 425 Washington St. and four apartments in one of a few buildings managed by Washington Street Properties LLC. Company owner Brian H. Murray said while an agreement is finalized for the Washington Street site, it is undecided which apartment building will accommodate the Mental Health Association’s respite program.

“They’ve allowed us to delay our down payment, and free rent for a few months to help us absorb costs of moving,” Ms. Scheible said.

Mr. Murray said Washington Street Properties also will work with the agency on “a plan to complete any necessary improvements to the property.”

“Part of why it’s a great fit for them is it’s ready to go,” he said. “We already completed a lot of upgrades.”

He said there was a lot of interest in the property, but the Mental Health Association was one of a few organizations interested that wanted the entire building.

Meanwhile, Ms. Scheible said the agency has changed job titles for many staff members, so they can focus on a particular area, instead of wearing many hats.

“This will allow each member to know exactly who to go to, to get continuous service through one person,” she said. “We are focusing on people and trying to prevent them from going into crisis.”

Having one staff member to help each Mental Health Association client may help identify warning signs of a possible crisis, versus risking the chance of missing something if a client had to go to several people. Ms. Scheible said the agency sees upward of 50 people per day who seek help through the following programs: drop-in center for socialization; Bridges for skill building; Agape for helping members navigate court systems; HUD for helping members find permanent housing; respite that provides a place for clients to go if their relatives or a caretaker need a break; Vet center for peer-to-peer support for veterans, Food for Thought for providing low-cost meals; and advocates, who support all programs.

“It was difficult to find something that could fit all programs,” Ms. Scheible said.

The kitchen at 425 Washington St. is much smaller than the one at 724 State St., so Ms. Scheible said the agency hopes to partner with a church to use its kitchen when Food for Thought has catering orders.

“Right now it’s very symbolic of us trying to revitalize and prepare for needs we anticipate happening with changes to the health care system,” she said. “Internally, we’re also reviving some programs.”

The agency’s telephone number will remain the same, at 788-6733.

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