Council members rejected a $3.74 million contract on Tuesday night that would have paved the way for a new mental health clinic at the health department.
Health director Donna Nelson-Ivy told the council only one company, Future Projects LLC of Union Avenue, submitted proposal for the contract.
Nelson-Ivy said the idea to run a mental health clinic out of the second floor lab of the health department struck her when a man jumped to his death from the downtown YMCA building.
“If he would have known that he had services right down the street maybe he would not have taken his life,” she said.
The director told council members $250,000 in community development block grant was set aside for the program. Other funds would come from reimbursements, she said.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, expressed apprehension at using the second floor of the health department to run the program. “Now you’re going to have a co-mingling of activities in the building,” he said.
Nelson-Ivy said the building has security and the consultant will also have security in place. Her re-assurances were not sufficient for Morris. He said most mental health clinics provide a single service aimed at their target market.
“We’re talking about perceived and real fears,” said Morris. Nelson-Ivy’s department employees have said they are not in favor of the program. When Morris asked whether her employees are on board, Nelson-Ivy said, “They are excited about it.”
Two health department employees said they are against the program.
Councilmen Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman and Alex Mendez wondered why the city isn’t simply partnering with another service provider.
“Why do we need a program like this when we can partner?” asked Akhtaruzzaman.
When Morris questioned Nelson-Ivy about the single proposal for the program, Nelson-Ivy said, the one response is a “perfect match.”
“I’ve never heard of them and I’ve been in the healthcare business for 35 years,” said Morris. He asked the director to provide the council more time to further review the program and the contract.
The contract would have paid the consulting company $307,000 for the first year. $896,000 for the second year, $871,000 for third year, $846,000 for the fourth year, and $821,000 for the fifth year.
The contract runs for two years with the option to renew for the three additional years, according to city records.
“I really need to move on this,” said Nelson-Ivy.
The measure was rejected in a 5-3 vote. Council members Ruby Cotton, Michael Jackson, and William McKoy voted to approve while Morris, Mendez, Akhtaruzzaman, Andre Sayegh, and Julio Tavarez voted against.
“I need to make sure it’s the right fit and the right program,” said Morris.