BestSelf Behavioral Health is consolidating its administrative offices, staff and Child Advocacy Center to a former healthcare building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus that it has agreed to purchase and expand in a project estimated at more than $20 million.
BestSelf, the region's largest community-based mental health organization, is finalizing a deal to purchase the former Mosher Health Center of Lifetime Health Medical Group at 899 Main St. from Uniland Development Co., officials confirmed Wednesday.
The purchase, which will be announced Thursday, will be followed by renovations and the addition of a third floor, adding another 15,000 square feet for a new total of 67,000 square feet of space. The building also has a full basement.
BestSelf plans to bring its 200 administrative employees to the new building, uniting them under one roof for the first time since the agency was formed in July 2017, from the merger of Lake Shore Behavioral Health with Child and Adolescent Treatment Services (CATS).
Its offices are currently split between 255 Delaware Ave., near Chippewa Street, and the former CATS offices at 301 Cayuga Road in Cheektowaga, near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
The agency also is relocating its Child Advocacy Center, where it treats children that have been physically or sexually abused, along with their families. That operation – which combines resources of BestSelf with law enforcement agencies and Oishei Children's Hospital – is currently in an old 7,000-square-foot mansion at 556 Franklin St., but doesn't have enough space, said agency spokeswoman Tracy LeBlanc. It can only serve one-third of the local need.
Now the 20 CAC staff members will move to the new building, which will also have dedicated offices for partner agencies, such as police, district attorneys and Child Protective Services, as well as a medical suite for the hospital.
“We are thrilled to have secured a location in downtown Buffalo to serve as our corporate headquarters and new location for our expanded Child Advocacy Center,” said BestSelf President and CEO Elizabeth Woike-Ganga. “We are committed to maintaining our administrative offices in the City of Buffalo, and proximity to the Buffalo Medical Campus and Allentown makes this site very attractive.”
The expansion comes as BestSelf has more than doubled in size since its creation, when it had 530 employees and a $35 million budget. Today, it employs nearly 1,200, with a budget of $81 million. And it serves more than 35,000 children and adults with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
"This will be important for our growth and our continued commitment to the community," said President and CEO Elizabeth Woike-Ganga. "There’s so much need for mental health services in the community."
LeBlanc said BestSelf had been seeking a new location for the advocacy center, and even purchased a building at 768 Delaware, behind the American Red Cross. But the costs and fundraising needs kept rising. So when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the agency into a pause, officials sought other options, and also realized the need to consolidate the headquarters, she added.
"Our fundraising costs were going up. We were compromising a lot, and we really wanted to have a state-of-the-art center," LeBlanc said. "Covid was a natural pause for us to look around at the options. We wanted to decrease the overall costs."
With the new location, the agency still needs to raise $10.5 million over the next two years just for the advocacy center – but that's down from $15 million if it continued with 768 Delaware. Officials still plan to use the Delaware facility for a pair of clinics.
The property purchase is expected to close by early fall.