In mental health center fight, Golden Valley gets the black eye it deserves

When the Golden Valley City Council backed off its vote to deny permission for a day treatment center for kids with mental health issues this week, it was an acknowledgement of a public relations nightmare. There’s little to suggest so far that it has anything to do with enlightenment.

People in Golden Valley have insisted it’s not about the kids per se, it’s about things like traffic. At best, that’s a lie that was exposed the minute a tearful woman approached the microphone at a hearing a couple of weeks ago and said, “our kids might be outside and exposed to the level of emotionally disturbed kids that are across the street from us.”

It was exposed when a man suggested that kids with mental illness would run, break into their homes, and maybe kill them.

It didn’t take any guts for the Golden Valley politicians to rescind their vote this week; they’d already run the organization that was going to provide the services out of town, the Star Tribune editorial noted.

The hardworking crew at King Pin Transmission would have been happy to help anyone who reached out for information. Owner Curt DeLange has shared a building with LifeSpan’s Shoreview facility for years.

“There’s been no problems with LifeSpan. No problems at all,’’ said DeLange, whose father owns the building. He added that the kids are respectful and that there’s never been any vandalism of the vehicles parked outside awaiting repairs or pickup.

As for the Golden Valley homeowners’ contention that the proposed facility was different from the other two because it’s close to nearby homes, DeLange laughed and said: “Stick your neck out the door.’’

A sprawling apartment complex is within easy view, and within a five-minute walk of the Shoreview building is a neighborhood of single-family homes. It’s also worth noting that LifeSpan’s Burnsville facility shares a building with a Grand Slam kids’ recreation facility and that it’s close to a day-care center and the southern suburb’s “Heart of the City” development.

Calls to these two cities’ law enforcement agencies also would have provided context for city leaders to more accurately assess homeowner’s fears that kids “escaping” from the school would do harm.

What happened in Golden Valley was hateful, and shameful. But the city was at least fortunate that its ugliness went relatively uncovered by most area news media.

Related: Shedding Light on Mental Illness – Perspective from Adam Levy (TPT Minnesota Productions & Partnerships).