Top local, state, and national leaders gathered in San Bernardino on Thursday, June 3 to celebrate the grand opening of a new 11,375-square-foot facility serving the Juvenile Justice Program (JJP) within San Bernardino County’s Department of Behavioral Health. The facility will serve an estimated 400 to 900 families per year, advancing the JJP’s mission to provide a comprehensive and effective continuum of adolescent behavioral health care for justice-involved youth, in or out of custody, who have mental illness.
“The Juvenile Justice Program reduces recidivism, promotes wellness and recovery, and enhances the quality of life in our county,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “Also, this project was developed in a Qualified Opportunity Zone, which benefits both the public and private sectors and creates vital community benefit. The value of bringing new investment to underserved communities underscores the importance of this program.”
“This new space will serve as a key resource for many deserving individuals and families in the region. It will be instrumental in giving youth and their families hope for a better future by promoting wellness and resiliency,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Dawn Rowe. The facility is located within Vice Chair Rowe’s Third Supervisorial District.
The new office space will be located proximate to the San Bernardino Children’s Assessment Center, Juvenile Court, Probation Office, and several schools. This new location will help facilitate collaboration as JJP staff members conduct community outreach and serve justice involved youth and their families.
“The critical need for outpatient behavioral health services has never been greater, especially when we are addressing restorative justice for youth living in this community. This is a great day for our youth, for equity and for our San Bernardino County at large,” said Dr. Veronica Kelley, Director for the Department of Behavioral Health.
Notably, the facility is located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) census tract – one of 57 Opportunity Zone tracts in the County – a designation created in 2017 via bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). Under the initiative, investors who make long-term investments in QOZ communities are eligible for a series of tax benefits.
The neighborhood is among the most distressed in the nation, scoring a 92.2 out of 100 on the Economic Innovation Group’s Distressed Communities Index. Further, its youngest residents are disconnected from vital services and are not well-positioned to reach their full potential. The Child Opportunity Index finds that neighborhood conditions scored very low for the census tract, suppressing the potential for local children and young adults to achieve upward mobility.
“Already millions of Americans have seen and benefited from the incredible potential of Opportunity Zones across the nation,” said Senator Tim Scott, who attended and spoke at the event. “I am amazed by the great work being done here at the San Bernardino Medical Center and look forward to hearing the success stories that come from their efforts.”
The project was highlighted as a national best practice in a May 2020 report by the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which included several case studies of Opportunity Zone investments across the country.
“(Last Thursday) is another sign of the growing promise of San Bernardino,” said San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia. “First and foremost, this new facility will help us better meet the needs of youth and families in our community. More broadly, the 500+ jobs created by the project and millions in new private investment generated are proof positive that San Bernardino is open for business and poised for growth. I commend my colleagues at the County for reaching this milestone, and thank Senator Scott, RevOZ Capital, and Sudweeks Development for their commitment to our community.”
Opportunity Zone capital proved essential to the building’s viability and construction. In 2018, San Bernardino County selected California-based developer Sudweeks Development and Investment Co. (SDIC) to finance and build a new government office building. The county pre-leased the building for 15 years. However, SDIC found that potential equity partners were not willing to invest in such a highly-distressed community, even though the long-term commitment from the county (an S&P rated AA+ tenant) reduced the risk of the project. Fortunately, RevOZ Capital, a nationally recognized Opportunity Zone fund, partnered with SDIC and the County. RevOZ and its affiliates made a 10-year investment to support construction of the San Bernardino Medical Center.
“This project embodies so much of what RevOZ aspires to achieve,” said Lisa Merage, RevOZ Capital Managing Partner and Chair of the RevOZ Social Impact Council. “We believe deeply both in the potential of emerging communities like San Bernardino, and in the potential of Opportunity Zone investments to create real economic, financial, and community benefits. We thank all of our partners for their support on this project, and are excited to explore further opportunities in the community to create economic and social impact.”
“Public–Private Partnerships have been the cornerstone of our business for the past several years,” said Brandon Sudweeks, Managing Member of SDIC. “Our team truly enjoys bringing together public, private, and community interests to address deep, unmet needs. I’m grateful to the County for their collaboration, and particularly thankful to Senator Scott and RevOZ for seeing the potential of Opportunity Zone financing to bring this project to fruition. Completing such a timely and important project – especially in light of the challenges posed by Covid over the past year – is a credit to our team and a tremendous source of pride.”
County staff anticipate completing final preparatory activities in the coming days and open the facility to patients later this month. For more information on the DBH Juvenile Justice Program, please visit www.sbcounty.gov/dbh.