Community Alliance nonprofit plans new $60 million headquarters

Mental health services campus to get boost from Nebraska Legislature

By: - April 12, 2022 12:19 pm
Community Alliance is building a $60 million facility at 71st and Mercy Road

Rendering of future Community Alliance headquarters at 7171 Mercy Road. (Courtesy of APMA)

A surge in mental illness and an Omaha nonprofit’s 40-year record of responding to that demand has given rise to a $60 million headquarters plan that triples program space for Community Alliance.

Now based at 41st and Leavenworth Streets, Community Alliance expects to move into its new 120,000-square-foot complex at 72nd Street and Mercy Road in late 2023.

The organization’s services for people with mental and behavioral health challenges, meanwhile, will continue uninterrupted at existing locations. Demolition is to start this month on the office property currently standing at Community Alliance’s future corner.

Carole Boye, chief executive since the agency’s founding in 1981, said the new headquarters and service expansion marks a milestone for the nonprofit that served 18 people its first year and now sees about 3,300 annually. That number is expected to triple within five years.

Avoiding crisis

More than anything, Boye said, the project reflects the need for comprehensive mental health treatment and recovery services. Community Alliance reports that one in five Nebraskans experiences a mental health challenge in any given year — but that the number grew to one in three during the pandemic.

“We’ve put so many pieces in place and have learned so much in 40 years,” Boye said. “Now we’ve got to get to the spot where help is available to everyone who needs it, in time to avoid a crisis.”

We looked at, ‘What does it take to live, work and thrive? To have a meaningful and purposeful life?'

– Carole Boye, Community Alliance CEO since 1981

Funding is being raised via a capital campaign headed by advocates and philanthropists Rhonda and Howard Hawks and a mix of grants, investments and public and private sector support.

About $10 million is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act funds that the Nebraska Legislature earmarked this year for construction of mental health facilities.

A goal, Boye said, is to create a setting that offers a full range of services, a one-stop shop for those living with mental illness and for their families.

Fitness is part of the plan

Indeed, said Boye, Community Alliance was founded by families who sought more than hospitals and medicine for their adult children.

“They wanted decent housing, help with employment,” Boye said. “Certainly we looked to help people with their symptoms, but also we looked at, ‘What does it take to live, work and thrive? To have a meaningful and purposeful life?’”

A decade ago, Community Alliance added primary health care to its programming as workers were cognizant that people with serious mental illness die younger, Boye said.

The current growth plan aims to increase availability and range of onsite clinics and offerings that include primary care, psychiatric and counseling services — allowing professionals a common place to “talk to each other” and to tend to a patient’s overall needs, Boye said.

Fitness, wellness and education components also are to be part of the new campus, helping to ward off aggravating and chronic conditions such as diabetes. Other building highlights include expanded access to employment and family and peer support services.

Access to public transit routes

Residential units are not planned at the new headquarters, but they are available elsewhere within the Community Alliance network. 

Boye said the agency’s future headquarters location was attractive for its visibility, its accessibility to the Interstate system and its place along public transit routes.

The facility will be a far cry from Community Alliance’s first offices near 39th and Pierce Streets that in 1981 covered less than 2,000 square feet.

It’s heftier than other properties the nonprofit has occupied, including the heating and air-conditioning fabrication plant on Leavenworth Street that Community Alliance moved to around 1994, and added onto a decade later. From there, the team is to move to 7171 Mercy Road.

“It’s really important to us that this be a welcoming, respectful kind of environment,” said Boye, the agency’s first employee. “Instead of emphasizing the illness, we want to emphasize the wellness.”

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.