In a 60-year-old converted motel on Lee Highway, Fairfax County runs its program for teenage girls who are being treated for habitual delinquent behavior.
The Girls Probation House is cramped and dilapidated. Its classrooms are too small. There is termite damage, peeling paint and structural damage. The house does not meet the county's building code, federal accessibility requirements or state residential treatment guidelines.
"There is only so much you can do," said Mary Brantley, the program's director. "And that is what we are having to deal with -- very small classrooms, not enough space for the girls just to be girls. A lot of the services are hampered by the daily need for repair. We are making daily calls to facilities maintenance [for repairs]."
If voters on Tuesday approve the $32.5 million sale of bonds for human services, the probation house would be demolished and replaced with a 12-bed, 12,500-square foot building for girls ages 14 to 17.
The probation house is one of several human services facilities that would benefit from approval of the bond issue, county officials said. The $32.5 million also would pay for major renovations at two outpatient mental health centers, expansion of a third mental health center and construction of another short-term, 12-bed shelter for girls and boys ages 10 to 17 who have problems where they live.
All projects would require public hearings, officials said.
The Woodburn Community Mental Health Center in Annandale and the Mount Vernon Community Mental Health Center in the Alexandria area of the county serve seven in 10 county residents who need emergency and outpatient mental health services. When they opened in the 1970s, Fairfax's population was about 500,000, compared with about 1 million today.
The age and heavy use of the centers has led to problems with mold, plumbing, air conditioning, parking and space, officials said. Woodburn has added temporary trailers over the years to handle the increase in clients.
The Mount Vernon and Woodburn centers are "in pretty poor shape," said John Defee, mental health services program manager. "Aside from being around for more than 30 years and not being nearly large enough . . . they have a number of other problems."
Woodburn and Mount Vernon would be renovated and expanded with $20 million of the bond money to address health and safety issues, improve access and meet other service and personnel requirements.
A smaller, third mental health facility on Gregory Drive in the Alexandria area would be rebuilt and expanded. It houses about eight residents but needs room for 16, officials said. Though more residents would be treated in a larger facility, officials said, operating costs would go down because two mental health programs now in buildings where the county pays rent would be relocated to the Gregory Drive facility.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court officials said they hope to get $10 million to cover the cost of the girls probation house and a second residential shelter for nonviolent juvenile offenders ages 10 to 17 who have been ordered by the court to be placed outside of their homes because of problems with their parents.
The new 12-bed residential shelter would be built next to an existing "less secure" shelter at the Juvenile Detention Center on Page Avenue in Fairfax City. A "less secure" facility is similar to a detention center but in a less secure environment.
Dennis Fee, director of the court's residential programs, said the existing shelter "has experienced some significant overcrowding over time. The other issue we face in our [existing] 'less secure' facility is that it is a coed facility."
Fee said this is a "challenging" condition for the shelter's staff. "It's a period in [the teens'] lives when there are too many temptations," he said. The new building would provide the court with more options for segregating youths in the program by sex and by age.
The remaining $2.5 million dollars from the bond sale would be slated for capital renewal projects at other human services and juvenile court facilities, including the replacements of roofs and electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems, officials said.
For more information, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/opa/bond/citizeninfo.htm#human.