MDHHS announces project approval for new facilities in Kalamazoo

Renderings of the Kalamazoo's new E. Alcott Street MDHHS building.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced the approval of a project to build a new facility on the south side of Kalamazoo.

The new building will be built next door to the new Family Health Center on East Alcott Street.

"This is a win-win-win," Sen. Margaret O'Brien, R-Portage, said. "It's a win for the people who serve our community, it's a win for the clients who walk in the doors, and it's a win for our entire county."

The Tuesday morning press conference at the proposed site was backdropped with construction equipment in an empty field.

O'Brien said she worked with Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, other state, county, and city leaders to keep pushing plans for the project through over the past four years.

"Projects like this are a clear example of the state investing in people and our community," Hoadley said.

MDHHS currently runs it services out of a facility at 322 E. Stockbridge Avenue.

Evelyn Conley has worked there for seven years and says a new facility is long overdue.

"We service a lot of people in this community," said Conley, who works for Children's Protective Services. "Thousands of people come through our doors everyday and they're hurting people, they're needing people, and this is going to help us to be able to give those services to them in a more effective way."

Leaders at the current facility said in the month of July that 59,730 people received some form of state assistance through their offices for programs like the state's Food Assistance Program, State Disability Assistance, Child Development and Care.

Children's Protective Services had 223 ongoing cases being worked on out of the same office as of the end of September, according to director Barb LaRue.

The new 70,000 square foot, two-story facility will be built on an abandoned paper mill site. Contamination in the area, according to O'Brien, is partly why the project has taken four years to reach approval.

MDHHS Director Nick Lyon said the state has done its due diligence and feels good moving forward with the project.

"When people walk into our building sometimes it's their greatest day of need," Lyon said. "That is so essential for our citizens to get the services in the simplest manner."

He said the new location will help families in need because it is next to several other services, such as the Family Health Center, the Goodwill and the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department.

Lyon said the new building will house cash assistance, food assistance, children services, and Michigan rehabilitation services.

"This is what we need to streamline services, to not just wrap around services but our arms around the kids and the families and the parents that are struggling," said Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore.

"The people who need help are going to be able to get it and not have to be navigating countless blocks and multiple destinations," Hoadley said. "Getting it right was just as important than just getting it done."

The Boji Group will build the facility and hope to start work within two months. The group hopes to have a ribbon cutting ceremony by early 2020.

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