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Jones: Health Right clinic move remains at least a year away

MORGANTOWN — Milan Puskar Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones said the Health Right Board of Directors has not lost hope that Health Right’s Spruce Street clinic will eventually relocate to Scott Avenue. 

The questions are when, how much is it going to cost and how will it be paid for.

“The timing of the move is unclear. We anticipate being at our current location for at least another year if everything falls into place,” Jones told The Dominion Post.  

What we do know is that Health Right and the city are going back and forth over how to facilitate that move. 

In September 2021, the city approached Health Right with an offer — move the Spruce Street clinic and the Friendship House out of downtown by March 31, 2023, and the city would provide $800,000 in American Rescue Plan money to purchase new property and assist in the move.  

The Friendship House, Health Right’s mental health drop-in center at 231 Walnut St., closed its doors in February and reopened last month at 277 Don Knotts Boulevard with a new mission and a new name, Friendship Community in Recovery.    

As for the clinic, Health Right purchased a building at 10 Scott Ave., a stone’s throw from Hazel’s House of Hope, and made plans to turn the 6,000-square-foot space into a functioning multi-faceted clinic and office.

But Jones began warning the city publicly in fall 2022 that Health Right was likely still $500,000 short of making that move. 

In February, she told The Dominion Post that estimates to renovate and expand the building actually came back more than $1 million over the available budget. 

The Dominion Post obtained an April letter from the city to Jones explaining the city would like to get the move to Scott Avenue “back on the table for discussion.” 

In the letter, the city manager’s office explains the city believes it has a potential buyer for Health Right’s current building at 341 Spruce St. That sale, the letter explains, would provide adequate funding for the move. That building remains listed with Black Diamond Realty for $975,000. 

In addition, the letter explains “we have spoken with each of the funders of the original project and believe they would support additional investment into the project, making up most of the funding gap.” 

The city also offered assistance with grant writing as well as an architectural review aimed at reducing the estimated cost of the Scott Avenue project. 

Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli confirmed earlier this month that the city had received a letter of response from Health Right.  

Neither the city nor Health Right would share the contents of that letter with The Dominion Post, citing ongoing negotiations. 

But Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said the commission would like to see it. 

The commission initially agreed to provide $200,000 to assist with the move and future programming. All $200,000 of that has since been designated for the move.

“We plan to send a letter next week,” Bloom said. “We have heard there has been some communication between Health Right and the city, but we have not been told where we are on that. So that’s a good question.” 

Both Jones and Muzzarelli have said there are still a number of details that need to be worked out.   

In the meantime, the Scott Avenue property is sitting empty.  

Jones was asked if there are individuals living on the property. Photos posted to social media appear to show a number of storage units located on property behind the new Health Right building were being accessed.

“Currently, there is no one living on our property on Scott Avenue. We have made it clear that no one is allowed to live there or on the property directly below our building. We don’t own the property below the parking lot at Scott Avenue,” Jones said.  

“There are a number of rumors going around that we are supplying clients with tools and telling them they can live there. This is not true. Our employees are working hard to help people access housing. This is no easy task when HUD vouchers are no longer available and won’t be available for the next few months.” 

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