A mental health hospital and assisted-living facility is being considered for construction in Templeton by Dr. Harvey Billig of Carmel on property he owns. It would be staffed and managed by Louisiana-based Vision Health LLC. The nearly 100-bed hospital at 1155 Las Tablas Road would house voluntary patients who need to be treated for issues such as schizophrenia, ADHD and suicidal thoughts.
Recent applications to the county Planning Commission and discussions at town hall meetings have opened up the conversation of the impacts of a mental health hospital. Nearly everyone in the community agrees: This facility does not belong in Templeton. The lack of local control, influence and ownership raises red flags right away. Local groups have been making their voices heard as the discussion gains traction.
The Templeton Area Advisory Group voted 7-0 to recommend that the county deny the property’s construction permits. Over 300 residents in opposition attended the TAAG meeting. Members of the Templeton Community Service District have also voiced opposition, and later held hearings consistently attended by more than 100 community members in opposition.
Despite all of this opposition, Vision Health LLC and Dr. Billig are still determined to force this facility on Templeton.
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The citizens of Templeton have spoken, and the fact remains that the infrastructure does not support this endeavor. Templeton, being an unincorporated part of San Luis Obispo County, relies on the single sheriff’s station in North County.
The voluntary basis of this hospital means that at any time during treatment, patients have the right to simply walk out the front door onto the streets. Concentrating a population of willingly housed, mentally ill patients in a neighborhood would weaken that coveted public safety foundation and inevitably create feelings of anxiety amongst families and residents in the area.
With very little public information readily available on Vision Health LLC, it seems likely the company is looking to build the hospital, make it operational and then sell it — leaving the Templeton community to take on the costs.
County health officials have shown support for the project as a supplement to their facilities in San Luis Obispo, but none of these government officials lives in Templeton or understands the dynamics of the region. The San Luis Obispo County League of Women Voters has also shown support for the project, but once again, none of their voting board members lives in Templeton.
Templeton is a place where a little piece of traditional America lives on. Kids still walk to school, the local market is still a bustling hang-out spot, and the farmers market and summer concert series are staples in the park. Families are at the core of this community and the safe comfort of our town is easy to feel. The uniqueness of Templeton’s tight-knit community is built on a foundation of public safety.
It's important to recognize and support the development of more resources to assist those with mental illness in our county. Bigger communities could more effectively accommodate a facility of this size and the benefits of a facility like this would be more effective in an area with a larger population and a stronger public safety infrastructure.