Dr. Wanda Figueroa, RiverValley Behavioral Health CEO/President, wants to destigmatize mental health issues and make services more accessible with the purchase of The Crowne building downtown.
The purchase marks a bigger push for the organization to integrate more into the community. With the proximity to the Judicial Center and foot traffic downtown, the organization hopes to create a space where people can come in and get the services they need.
Figueroa said just having a location in one of the more busy sections of town is helping spark the conversation about mental health.
“It’s very important to open access, and sometimes the barriers could be transportation, so that’s why we have different locations [across town],” Figueroa said. “We want to be close to the people when they are walking by and they say ‘This is a nice place, I could have coffee [next door] and then I could come here.’”
On the first floor, Figueroa plans to have two main functions — a wellness library and a space for people to sign up for classes and services.
The library would be stocked with books about relationship issues, mental health, emotional help, effective parenting, and more. All of the books in the library would be free of charge to be checked out by members of the community.
“The Crowne building is such a recognizable part of the history of the city that [people] could go to this place because it’s a quiet, friendly, peaceful place that they can get access to books, videos on any issues that have to do with personal growth and wellness,” Figueroa said.
The remainder of the floor would have trained professionals as part of a service connector to give aid in any way the client could need, whether self-referral or court-appointed. The client could enter the building and seek Mental Health First Aid Training or Suicide Prevention Training.
When it comes to the latter, she is hoping to focus on the high suicide rates among farmers — especially with the local community being heavily agricultural.
RVBH will try to set up an area for teaching classes of around 30-40 people on the second floor, and install an elevator to ensure the whole facility is handicap accessible.
A majority of the services offered would be free.
They still want to keep some of the iconic looks of the building after renovations, which will start soon. All the while they are still renovating their Walnut Street location, which should be finished in a year Figueroa said.
Figueroa said that surroundings, setting, and the atmosphere of the location are like the second therapist to a client.
“We want people when they come into our doors to feel respected that we respect them enough to invest in something like them,” Figueroa said. “We want to create a therapeutic, peaceful place in each one of [our spaces]. That’s something that’s a priority for us.”