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Flint, MI—A 60,000-square-foot building located on South Saginaw Street will offer pediatric, children’s mental health, and legal aid, all under one roof.
Construction of the Genesee Health System’s Center for Children’s Integrated Services building has been underway since July 2021, and is expected to be completed in summer of 2022.
Between its three locations, GHS serves approximately 5,000 children from around Genesee County, many of which come from Flint, CEO Danis Russell said.
But in the last decade, demand for children’s services has grown, he said.
“We have seen pretty dramatic increase in the need for our kids’ services, and we were seeing that before the water crisis. And then after the water crisis, that just kind of started to go steadily up,” Russell said.
Due to the need for more services, Russell said he realized GHS needed to expand.
“Right now, we have children’s services in three different locations spread across the city, and we rent them all. So, we don’t own any of the space,” he said.
Russell started by looking for new places to rent.
“At that point, building a new building wasn’t even an idea,” Russell said, adding that GHS couldn’t afford it.
But Chair of the Greater Flint Mental Health Facilities Board Bill Winiarski wanted to help, Russell said.
Winiarski found donors, which included the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and the Carls Foundation located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
These donations, along with $5 million in New Market Tax Credits, allowed GHS to move forward with creating a $23 million facility just south of downtown Flint.
“It just happened to hit a point where Mott was looking for something to put in that area downtown, which had not seen much redevelopment. There’s still a considerable amount of blight on the south side of Flint, and that was one of their designated project areas,” Russell said.
GHS held a groundbreaking ceremony in July where Congressman Dan Kildee, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and Mott Foundation CEO Ridgeway White spoke.
Along with physical and mental health services, The Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, established in 2018 to provide neuropsychological assessments of children exposed to lead from Flint water, will move from its current home on Robert T Longway Boulevard to the new building.
Russell said he thinks the de-stigmatization of mental health in mainstream media has empowered more people to seek care.
“We joke that Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka probably did as much as the field has done in the last 25 years. They’re saying that they have mental health issues, and they need to get treatment. And that’s okay,” he said.
In Flint, Russell said he noticed a change in residents’ views of mental healthcare after the water crisis.
“We think a lot of the families we saw were probably already struggling with issues. Then the water crisis came and that made it okay to ask for help.”