With the success of its first location in Orange, Be Well OC will be bringing its mental health and substance abuse treatment services to Irvine with the construction of its newest campus.

Be Well OC officials were joined by local leaders and community members to celebrate the groundbreaking on what will become a 75,000-square-foot facility on 22 acres of county-owned land on Marine Way, not far from the Great Park. The campus will provide services such as a mental health urgent care center and a sobering center, as well as residential and outpatient programs. Another area is planned for family supportive programming.

The first phase is expected to be completed in March 2025, and the rest to be completed September 2025. The facility will be open to Orange County residents, regardless of what insurance they have or their ability to pay, though requires a referral.

“It’s a beautiful day to celebrate Orange County’s commitment to a world class behavioral health system,” said Rick Afable, chairman of Mind-OC, a nonprofit that focuses on accessible care for all, and interim CEO of Be Well OC. “The Be Well Irvine campus will offer an enhancement to the county system with an additional 150 beds for adults, adolescents and families across treatment programs, ranging from crisis services to residential care for mental health and substance use disorders.”

Scott Anderson, guest services coordinator at Be Well OC, knows firsthand how valuable the center’s services are.

“This was around COVID time. I was going through a little bit of a mental health issue, and I didn’t necessarily know how to cope,” Anderson said. “I worked in the restaurant industry for six years and restaurants were shut down. I had recently gotten out of a relationship and I was depressed. I was isolating myself, and the only thing that I resorted to was drinking.”

Anderson said he tried an outpatient program, but his drinking started up again after and got progressively worse. His mom had heard about Be Well OC, a private-public effort to provide mental health care opening in Orange, and gave him an ultimatum: Get help or get out.

“For me, the answer was obvious. I knew I didn’t like living how I was living and the feelings I was feeling, the withdrawals, the pain, the suffering. It was just getting worse,” Anderson said. “So I said I want help. And I went in the car and she drove me to Be Well.”

Anderson detoxed for 11 days in the sobering center before a spot in the residential program opened up.

“I was basically taught that I’m not alone, and that was the biggest thing for me,” Anderson said. “I isolated myself and my pain, my sorrow, and Be Well showed me that I am not alone in this fight and that there’s help out there.”

Anderson said he is excited for the program’s expansion into Irvine to serve more of the county, especially since it will be larger than the campus in Orange. 

“I think this type of movement is what is needed in the community,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t be happier about this campus in Irvine and to be able to help more people, because as we know there’s never enough beds for people who want to go to treatment. Just being able to increase the amount of beds and resources is just amazing.”

The new center was made possible with funding from county, state and federal leaders. The OC Board of Supervisors approved $40 million toward the project, and an additional $15 million was provided by CalOptima Health. A $37.6 million grant came from the state’s Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program, $12 million in state funding was secured by Assemblywoman Cottie Petri-Norris and $2 million in federal funding was secured by Congressman Lou Correa.

The first Be Well OC campus got a $16.6 million boost from the Board of Supervisors and $11.4 million from CalOptima, with $12 million in contributions from private donors and major hospital systems.

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“It is a testament to the foresight that goes into the planning of this facility and indeed the entire Be Well concept,” Third District Supervisor Don Wagner said. “This is what happens when we work innovatively and collaboratively together to bring about improvements that will benefit the people of Orange County regardless of their economic status.”

Fourth District Supervisor Doug Chaffee said the goal is easy access to mental health and wellness care for every resident of the county. There is more to do, Chaffee said, and he looks forward to finding a location for a third facility in north Orange County that has always been part of the plan. Be Well OC also has mobile response teams that provide services in five Orange County cities.

The slogan for the Be Well OC is “Hope Happens Here,” and Mind-OC board member Rabbi Richard Steinberg said the mission is for that to continue on with this new campus.

“We pray that Be Well will continue to fix the world one person at a time,” Steinberg said, “taking their broken universe, giving them healing, giving them blessing, and ultimately giving them hope.”