Clinic for mentally ill kids withdraws Golden Valley plan

  • Article by: Mary Jane Smetanka
  • Star Tribune
  • March 4, 2014 - 9:03 PM

A group that wanted to locate a day treatment center for mentally ill children in Golden Valley has withdrawn its application, saying in a letter that it “no longer [sees] this location as a financially viable option and will not be going forward with this project.”

LifeSpan of Minnesota, which has treatment centers in Burnsville and Shoreview, said it is working to find a location in another city that wants to work with it. They did not identify that city.

Last month, the Golden Valley City Council rejected the application of a developer working for LifeSpan by a 3-2 vote after some residents expressed concerns about the center at a public hearing. The planned site of the center, which would have been located at 345 Pennsylvania Av. and served children ages 5 to 18, bordered a residential area.

People who spoke at the hearing warned that children who used a sledding hill behind the building could be endangered by LifeSpan clients and said residents might be at risk, too. Council members asked if the center had guards and what would happen if kids who were being treated at the center “escaped.”

Mental health advocates called a news conference after the council decision, accusing the city and residents of insensitivity and ignorance. Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris apologized, but said LifeSpan had not responded fully to resident’s questions and the issues they raised.

Two weeks ago, the City Council rescinded its action and said LifeSpan could reapply if it agreed to take part in neighborhood meetings to answer people’s questions.

In its letter, LifeSpan said it had canceled its purchase agreement for the Pennsylvania Avenue property the day after the first council vote.

“We were taken aback by the tone of the meeting, especially the focus on safety which contradicted the information in the Golden Valley police chief’s report,” it said. “The findings for denial were not based on facts but perceptions.”

The letter was signed by Traci Hackmann, CEO and clinical director of LifeSpan, and Mike Whalen, president of the developer Fundus Praedium LLC. They wrote that after the complications in city approval, they had made a business decision to “cut our losses.”

LifeSpan treats children with severe emotional and behavioral problems. Kids would have been bused to the Golden Valley location, where they would have received treatment from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At the council hearing, Hackmann said children are never left alone at their treatment centers. She said the group had been looking for a site in the northwest metro to serve clients from that area, because those children now have long bus rides to get treatment.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380

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