Marion County opens new $16.5 million Health and Human Services building

Marion County has opened a new Health and Human Services building to house public health services in one place to provide better service and save lease costs.

The new building opened on Oct. 30, coming in about $300,000 over budget for a final cost of $16.5 million. County officials said last year the project was an investment that could help save hundreds of thousands in annual leases for space currently across several locations.

The county borrowed $10 million for the building on Northeast Center Street and also tapped the budget of the county Health and Human Services Department, according to county spokeswoman Melissa Gable.

The building opened about six months earlier than planned. County officials originally had concerns that global supply chain issues would delay the building.  But contractor Triplett Wellman and design firm Carlson Veit Junge Architects “moved quickly with developing our plans, which helped make the ordering of materials and construction a smooth process,” Gable said.

Marion County previously provided most health department services at its building on 3180 Center St. N.E. That included intellectual and developmental disabilities services, communicable disease control and the Women, Infants and Children office.

But drug treatment, crisis, and youth and family services were scattered across Salem. The county was paying $593,400 a year to lease four other buildings such as on Northeast Beverly Avenue and Southeast Pence Loop. Those locations will be closed, according to Ryan Matthews, health and human services administrator for the county.

Over 130 employes and the department’s public health clinic, WIC program, environmental health services, early childhood nursing and administrative offices have moved to the new building at 3160 Center St. N.E., according to a county news release. It will also house the Health Promotion and Prevention program, which focuses on alcohol, drug and tobacco prevention, suicide prevention and problem gambling.

Matthews said last year that the county’s original three-level building for health services is difficult to get around. People getting flu shots or vaccines at the public health clinic had to then go to a different suite and wait in the lobby to get service at the WIC office. 

The new building offers walk-in services such as immunization or birth and death certificates, while the older building will focus more on referrals and people already enrolled in services such as outpatient mental health treatment or intellectual and developmental disabilities services. 

No new staff were hired to work in the building, Gable said.

The new building will have a single lobby and reception for all services. 

There is also a private room allowing people with contagious diseases such as tuberculosis to enter for testing without going through the rest of the building.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.