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Garlington Mural
By Arashi Young | The Skanner News
Published: 13 August 2015

The Garlington Center on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard looks like a small strip mall that belongs to another era.

The row of social service agencies has warm yellow walls and a Spanish brick rooftop -- a look that is out of place on the rapidly developing street.

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, which owns and operates the Garlington Center, has reached a fundraising milestone to redevelop the outlet into a fully integrated wellness center and affordable housing complex.

On July 17, the Oregon State Housing Council awarded the center a $9.4 million project grant through Oregon Housing and Community Services. The grant would fund a large portion of the affordable housing units and enable Cascadia to start a capital funding campaign for the rest of the building.

Samantha Ridderbusch, the director of public affairs at Cascadia, said the award is the milestone that will help the project move forward. She said the redeveloped building will be able to better serve the community by serving the whole health of a person.

"It's definitely going to be an amazing facility with fully integrated health care," Ridderbusch said.

The Garlington Center is an outpatient mental health and addictions treatment center that provides a range of social services to people with behavioral health issues. The center is named after Reverend Dr. John W. Garlington Jr., who was a leader of the Maranatha Church in Portland during the 1970s and 1980s. Garlington was a humanitarian and activist who advocated for disenfranchised people.

Some of the programs offered through the center are addiction services, housing outreach, adult outpatient mental health services, employment and educational support. Cascadia also runs their Healing Hurt People program through Garlington, which serves young Black men who have experienced trauma from gang violence.

The redevelopment would allow Cascadia to expand these services by adding a primary care health clinic so that patrons could get regular check-ups, monitor diabetes, visit a dental clinic and more.

“With the direction of healthcare and the direction of the state of Oregon in particular, the integration of health care and being able to serve a person fully all in one place, I think it's a really good thing to be a part of,” Ridderbusch said.

Through the redevelopment on the Garlington Center, Cascadia is following the Integrated Behavioral Health Clinic model. In this model, social service agencies work in harmony with each other to treat patients holistically.

Often, people with behavioral health challenges will avoid seeking preventative medical treatment due to discomfort with traditional primary care clinics, or will seek treatment only after catastrophic health events. In the integrated behavioral health clinic model at Garlington, a person will be able to take care of mental wellness as well as physical wellness and have access to community health promotion and prevention wellness programs.

Through a partnership with Central City Concern, the health clinic will be a Federally Qualified Health Center, which allows the facility to serve Medicare and Medicaid patients and be reimbursed by the federal government.

The current design will provide 52 units of affordable housing. Ten of those would go to people with behavioral health challenges, 10 will be set aside for homeless veterans and the rest are for renters with 50 percent or below the area’s median income.

The center hosts a garden that will be a part of the new development as well. Ridderbusch said that the garden will be used as part of nutrition classes within the new wellness center. Housing facility clients will often have an interest in garden-to-table eating, but no place to grow food. She said the expanded garden will be a practical way to give residents this access.

A series of community murals adorn the north exterior of the current building. There are also murals inside the facility as well. There are plans to incorporate these murals in the design of the new property. If anyone has information about murals or suggestions on preserving them, call Cascadia’s Garlington Center project hotline: (503) 813-8060.

If Cascadia reaches its fundraising goals, construction will start in late 2016 and be completed in about a year. The Garlington Center plans to remain in operation in a temporary location that has not been determined.

Ridderbusch said the work done at Garlington is necessary work because behavioral health affects the whole community.

“Behavioral health challenges affect everyone -- personally, by a loved one, by someone you are close to or family member, there is no life that is unaffected,” she said.

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