Tag Archive for: behavioral health

Central Hall project funded in legislature short session

SOU receives support from legislature

(Ashland, Ore.) — Statewide headlines about this year’s “short” session of the Oregon State Legislature, which adjourned last week, generally characterized it as an opportunity for lawmakers to bolster the governor’s fight against homelessness and to address issues with an earlier ballot measure that decriminalized drug possession. But a close look through a regional lens suggests that Southern Oregon University was among the session’s winners.

SOU was awarded funding for two of its top three priorities for the session – expansion of its graduate-level behavioral health counseling programs and completion of its Central Hall renovation project.

“We feel that the 2024 legislative session was pivotal for SOU, and for the southern Oregon region,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Lawmakers have been vocal in recognizing that our university is taking the necessary steps to build financial sustainability, and legislative actions this year are rewarding our innovative approaches.

“We work closely with our local legislative delegation, and their influence with colleagues from throughout the state is reaping benefits for our campus and our communities. We are grateful to all of our state leaders for putting their trust and confidence in us, and for demonstrating that trust with their continuing support.”

Behavioral health funding
Legislators allocated $4 million for the state’s technical and regional universities, plus Portland State University, to expand the capacity of programs that train behavioral mental health counselors. SOU will receive $666,667 of that amount, which will be used to build a master’s degree in social work program, in collaboration with PSU, and to expand existing counseling programs.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Jeff Golden of Ashland, who initially proposed a total of $6 million to expand the state’s behavioral health treatment capacity before the amount was reduced to $4 million. The funding is intended to expand offerings in the healthcare field and help Oregon address a critical statewide shortage of behavioral health practitioners.

SOU was separately awarded a $1.8 million grant earlier this year from the Oregon Health Authority to be used in part to expand the capacity of SOU’s existing master’s degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling to 60 students, from the current maximum of 48. SOU’s grant is part of the OHA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative to improve care across the state, particularly for under-represented communities. SOU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is expected to add a tenure-track faculty position this winter to support the program’s increased capacity next fall.

Central Hall renovation
SOU will receive $6 million to complete an ongoing upgrade to Central Hall – the only capital project that was funded for Oregon’s seven public universities, out of the total of $63 million in bond funding that lawmakers set aside for projects proposed by government entities throughout the state.

The funding allocated by this year’s legislature will pay for Phase 4 of the Central Hall project – interior design and finish work for the second floor, landscape renovations, a solar installation on the building roof, charging stations adjacent to the building in Lot 27 and potentially an additional solar installation in the parking lot. The design work for Phase 4 will kick off this summer or fall, and will likely include classrooms, a computer lab, study areas and other student-centered spaces.

The Central Hall project was originally allocated $6 million in the 2017 legislative session, and SOU has used additional funding from its capital improvement budget to maintain momentum on the project’s first three phases. The work began in 2022 and has included interior demolition; a seismic, mechanical, electrical, HVAC and life-safety upgrade; and design and renovation of basement and first-floor spaces.

The entire Central Hall project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.