Contact: Thomas Hottman
By GERRY O'BRIEN
Sky Lakes Medical Center announced Thursday it has purchased 18 acres of land at the former West One auto center location in the 1900 block of South Sixth Street in Klamath Falls to build a "human services" campus. The campus would focus on helping those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and other social afflictions.
Paul Stewart, president and CEO of Sky Lakes, made the announcement at the Klamath County Rotary Club luncheon where he was the guest speaker.
The campus may one day house the Klamath Falls Gospel Mission, which has been raising money to expand its services, including a new kitchen, dining hall and a women's shelter near the downtown area. The mission is at 823 Walnut Ave. It has raised about $950,000 toward a $1.6 million goal of building a women's shelter, said the mission's director Kent Berry. Stewart plans to meet with Berry early next week to discuss relocating the facility.
The campus investment is in the "multi-millions of dollars" Stewart said. However, it is still in its planning infancy. Sky Lakes would own and operate some of the services there, but other satellite social services may locate there as well.
"Sky Lakes is in partnership with several community members and we have been working for several months on a new way to deliver health care services that focuses on the effort of the individual, who shows self-reliance, the ability to stand on their feet and be functional to get a job," Stewart told the audience.
About 10 community members have been working behind the scenes interviewing health care providers, businesspeople, law enforcement, the homeless and transients to determine the best fit for such a campus. The group declined to be identified until next week when more details of the project will be released.
The first building to be located at the site will be a sobering station for the intoxicated. The need for such a station has been apparent for several years. Stewart noted that often intoxicated people are dropped off by law enforcement at the Sky Lakes emergency room. The ER is one of the most costly services the hospital provides. ER serves about 2,000-plus patients a month and has been trying to migrate much of that service to preventative care prior to someone having an emergency.
"We are now embarking on a community project … where similar services would be co-located so they work well together, collaborate and deliver welfare services in a more efficient and a more functional way," Stewart said.
"This is an exciting opportunity to fundamentally restructure how we offer social services. It would be more proactive and facilitates the independence and self-reliance of the individual.
"Last year the mission announced plans to relocate to 707 High St., a former school and church. A public outcry nixed the idea because it would be in the heart of the downtown area. Since that time, the Klamath Works group has been looking at alternative sites.
The mission provides about 110,000 meals a year, offering housing to nearly 8,600 men, women and children annually.