Building near City Hall likely future location for Bannock County Crisis Center

November 16, 2018

POCATELLO — The Portneuf Health Trust has accepted the donation of the former Idaho Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance headquarters and will use the building to provide treatment to those suffering from mental health and drug addiction issues.

Sources with knowledge of the donation say this building, located at 1001 N. Seventh Ave. near Pocatello City Hall, will likely be the future home of the much-anticipated Bannock County Crisis Center.

Bannock County officials said they are currently in the process of contracting an organization to operate the crisis center, which is expected to be up and running by early spring 2019.

The center’s location had been a mystery until Thursday when the Portneuf Health Trust announced the Farm Bureau’s donation of its former headquarters and then others involved in the project said the center will likely be located in that building.

Portneuf Health Trust Chief Executive Officer Shaun Menchaca, announced the donation of the building, valued at approximately $3.5 million, during the Pocatello Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon at the Clarion Inn on Thursday afternoon. The Portneuf Health Trust then issued a press release on Thursday evening again announcing the donation.

“One of the things I am most excited about … is what we are calling the City Center Project,” Menchaca said about the donated building during the Rotary luncheon. “We have executed a contract to (accept as a donation) the old Farm Bureau headquarters. The gap we are trying to accomplish or fill is mental health, addiction and opioid treatment and care for the uninsured. It’s care for the most vulnerable in our community.”

Menchaca would not refer to the building as the future location of the Bannock County Crisis Center but others close to the project said that is likely what the building will be used for.

Menchaca said that partners involved with the project include the Southeast Idaho Health District behavioral board, the state of Idaho and “our good friend Sen. Mark Nye, who fought very hard to get the state of Idaho’s crisis center funding here.”

Menchaca added, “New partners include the 6th Judicial District which is changing their treatment model to help work on upstream solutions to folks that are going to jail that don’t really need to be in jail. Other partners include Bannock County, (Pocatello, Chubbuck) and Farm Bureau as well as many recovery and treatment providers in our state. This is an integrated free clinic and behavioral care center and supportive services to provide a continuum of care.”

The donated Farm Bureau headquarters building is the largest single donation the Health Trust has ever received from a corporation, Menchaca said in the Thursday evening news release.

Health Trust officials say plans are already underway to renovate the building’s 50,000-plus square-feet of space.

The Health Trust said some services will be offered at the building by the spring of 2019. This concurs with county officials saying that the Bannock County Crisis Center will be up and running by early spring 2019, providing more proof that the plan is to house the center in the donated building.

“Paying a fraction of the appraised value will help us invest in an outstanding facility and (provide a) continuum of care for a very vulnerable group of people in our community,” Menchaca said in the news release. “We would like to offer a whole-hearted thanks to the entire Farm Bureau team for their contribution.”

The donated building has been a part of the Pocatello community since 1972 when it was constructed as a Blocks department store. Farm Bureau Insurance purchased and remodeled the building in 1989 to house its state headquarters. Expansive growth caused Farm Bureau to build and relocate to its current headquarters on Pocatello’s Tierra Vista Drive in 2002. The former headquarters building was later leased for several years by Farm Bureau to Idaho State University but currently sits vacant.

“The Portneuf Health Trust has been very involved in improving the health and wellness of our community,” said Paul Roberts, Farm Bureau executive vice president and chief executive officer. “Farm Bureau Insurance is pleased to donate the larger value of this building to assist them in meeting their worthwhile objectives.”

Both Pocatello Police Chief Scott Marchand and Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said they support locating the proposed crisis center in the former Farm Bureau headquarters because they feel Pocatello is the best place in the county to locate the facility.

“I think it’s a great location and Pocatello has needed this for a long time,” Marchand said.

Sheriff Nielsen said, “We’ve been excited ever since the (Idaho) Legislature said we were selected for funding. As the sheriff, this has been a long time coming. It’s awfully hard to find a place to put a facility like this but this location is very central to other places where people in crisis can get help. The Health Trust taking ownership of this building is a giant step forward in allowing us to provide these necessary services.”

Local officials asked Bannock County voters to approve a multi-million dollar bond last year that would have expanded the county jail and created a crisis center, but the bond failed to get the necessary voter support at the polls.

Local authorities have said that a crisis center is needed in Bannock County because it will give law enforcement a better place to house those suffering from mental illness and/or drug addiction than the county jail.

State Sen. Nye, D-Pocatello, said he is pleased with the progress to bring a crisis center to the county.

“This is scheduled to open in the spring and it’s highly needed for Pocatello and its citizens,” Nye said. “The steering committee involved with this deserves a ton of credit for organizing this initiative and making it happen.”

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