A new and welcome addition to South Los Angeles health care services was announced recently as officials broke ground on the Martin Luther King Jr. Behavioral Health Center in Watts.

The $335-million facility, adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, will serve people suffering with mental illness, substance abuse disorders, as well as those who are homeless, and those who have been in the criminal justice system.

The center will house clinical and behavioral staff from the Los Angeles County departments of mental health, public health, and health services. The County departments of probation, workforce development, aging, community services—along with the Office of Diversion and Reentry—will sponsor rehabilitative, vocational, and training opportunities to provide individuals with the skills they need to reintegrate into society.

“We are breathing new life into this building, transforming it into a one-stop-shop for helping some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (Second District). “With the MLK Behavioral Heath Center, we are creating a cutting-edge continuum of care that promotes mental health, recovery, trauma prevention, rehabilitation, and many other essential wrap-around services that foster long-term wellness.”

Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of LA County Department of Mental Health, said the new facility is an “expression of the County’s commitment” to shared leadership and collective action.

“The Behavioral Health Center showcases our strong belief that with care-based solutions, we can and will divert those with significant needs from the institutions of our streets and our jails, as well as from the emotional, social and spiritual isolation that comes with internal suffering,” Sherin said. “[This] is a proud day for us all as we plant a flag for a future direction that is invested in restorative care and societal justice.”

Exodus Recovery is among the community-based organizations that will partner with the County to provide critical services at the new facility.

“This forward-looking, first-of-it-kind facility will be a model for mental health care of the future and a tribute to the community,” said Launa Murphy, president and CEO of Exodus Recovery.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Behavioral Health Center, the latest addition to the 42-acre MLK Medical Campus, was made possible partly by the approval of a $40 million grant under California’s Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013.