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Orange County Digest

South Laguna : Board Moves to Reopen Mental Health Clinic

July 10, 1986|Kristina Lindgren \f7

Over the opposition of retail store owners, county supervisors Wednesday moved to lease space in a South Laguna shopping center for the long-awaited reopening of a county mental health counseling clinic.

Store owners complained that mental patients would discourage retail customers and argued that there must be cheaper sites in the area than the $2-per-square-foot, ocean-view office on South Coast Highway.

"Business in this area already is on the low side; we don't need any further detractions," said Howard Neufeld, a San Clemente attorney representing the Laguna Reef Inn, a motel in the shopping center north of Aliso Beach.

Neufeld said store owners fear that "possibly violent mentally ill people" could be among the patients served at the clinic. He also expressed concern about the hazard of patients crossing busy Coast Highway to get to the nearest bus stop.

But Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, pointing out that the county had searched more than two years for a suitable location, decried the shop owners' negative attitude.

"In my nearly 12 years of sitting on this board, any time we discuss opening facilities like this . . . people say, 'Put it in somebody else's backyard,' " Riley declared, adding:

"I am convinced that the need here has been long established and I believe--contrary to what several of the shop owners have said here--that mental health patients buy pizza and ice cream, too. I believe they will be good neighbors and good customers, too."

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