By Mac Larsen | CNews Contributing Writer
The University of Oregon’s Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health will welcome its first group of students to the former Concordia University campus in the summer of 2023. UO representatives spoke at the Concordia Neighborhood Association’s General Meeting June 1 about the status of the university’s purchase and development of the former Concordia University campus, 2811 NE Holman St.
UO Portland Vice Provost Jane Gordon, Assistant Vice President for Community Relations Matt Roberts, and Ballmer Institute Acting Executive Director Randy Kamphaus spoke about the Institute’s goals and reach and answered questions from the CNA Board.
The Concordia property remains in escrow, and the sale is scheduled to go through in July. The new campus will open to students for hybrid, or in-person as well as online, learning in the summer and fall of 2023. The Institute will welcome a prospective class of around 200 students to help meet the rising need for mental healthcare professionals for children and adolescents with behavioral disorders.
The university’s board of trustees approved the purchase agreement March 14. UO officials have said that an ongoing legal dispute between the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, the property’s owner, and HotChalk, a Concordia University education contractor, will have no effect on the pending sale of the campus. HotChalk is suing the LCEF for breach of contract, stating their argument hinges on the “significant value” of the Concordia campus and “LCEF’s continuing pattern of diverting assets to elude bona fide creditors like HotChalk,” according to reporting from the Portland Business Journal.
As for the Institute, officials said its programs will help the nation address a number of employment as well as health care concerns. “The Ballmer Institute is an attempt to help close the workforce gap between adolescents and their behavioral health needs and their access to services,” Kamphaus said.
UO views The Ballmer Institute as an investment in a healthcare sector in desperate need of support and resources, with less than 400,000 children’s mental health professionals working in the United States right now. According to the CDC, almost 20% of children and adolescents under 18 “have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder.” However, only 20% of children facing these challenges ever receive attention from a trained mental health professional, or diagnosis or treatment. The Institute hopes to lead the nation in educating future doctors, counselors, therapists, and nurses in the field of children’s behavioral health.
“We’ve had school districts express interest in hiring as many of our grads as we can produce,” Kamphaus said, noting he and other institute leaders meet with Portland Public Schools weekly, to plan how the school district can provide opportunities for student healthcare professionals. Roberts said that further community outreach with the Concordia neighborhood will be coordinated by UO and the university’s architects.
“We’ve heard the surrounding communities very much miss having students around,” Kamphaus said. “We couldn’t have a better welcome mat for the Ballmer Institute and for any other UO programs at the downtown campus who may want to move out to that campus as well next year in the coming years.”
Mac Larsen is a graduate student at the University of Oregon, pursuing a master’s degree in journalism. He grew up in Concordia neighborhood and can be found frequently on Alberta Street, complaining about all the construction.