More in-patient mental health care in county proposed

For decades, there’s been a big gap in psychiatric care in Snohomish County.

An estimated 60 percent of adults who need in-patient care for mental health problems have to leave the county to be treated.

Currently, in-patient psychiatric beds for adults are offered at only one facility in the county, Swedish/Edmonds. Its 18-bed unit treated 546 patients last year.

Now, two organizations have announced plans to open in-patient mental health treatment units. Collectively, they could treat up to 105 patients at any one time.

A public hearing on the proposals is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Everett Public Library.

Kirkland-based Fairfax Hospital wants to open a 30-bed unit in January, leasing space on the Pacific Campus of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Ascend Health Corp., based in New York City, wants to spend nearly $24 million to open a 75-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital in Lynnwood, with the first 60 beds available for patients also in January.

The remaining 15 beds would open in 2015, according to plans submitted to the state Department of Health.

Ascend is the same organization that bought Seattle’s Schick Shadel Hospital last year, which specialized in treating patients with drug and alcohol problems.

The state Department of Health, which reviews proposals for new health care facilities, is scheduled to make a decision on the psychiatric units by July 10.

Shelley Weyer, who lives near the Colby Campus of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, said she’s concerned about what arrangements will be made for the discharge of patients being treated at the proposed Fairfax facility in Everett.

Psychiatric patients treated at Everett and other area hospitals sometimes are simply just discharged to the street, she said.

“My question is what are your processes when you let them leave? Will you just let them out on the streets?”

Fairfax’s discharge plans include instructions for the patient and family, assuring proper referrals are made and following up on the patient, according to documents submitted to the state Department of Health.

If its plan is approved, Fairfax would spend $3.9 million to upgrade and secure the seventh floor of hospital building on Providence’s Pacific Campus.

“Some of it is going in and making sure the rooms are safe from a psychiatric perspective,” said Ron Escarda, Fairfax’s chief executive.

No one will be able to enter or leave the facility without going through double-locked doors, he said.

Bathrooms, which offer the most opportunities for psychiatric patients to injure themselves, will be designed to ensure more safety, Escarda said. And windows will be reinforced.

Fairfax has negotiated a 10-year lease with two five-year options, according to Dave Brooks, Providence’s chief executive.

“Central Snohomish County does not have any in-patient psychiatric services,” Brooks said. “Providence has felt some obligation to help figure out how to improve upon that.”

The former General Hospital Medical Center in Everett, which merged with Providence, closed its psychiatric unit in 1991.

It was just one of many hospitals that closed its in-patient psychiatric units because they didn’t break even financially and had to be subsidized by other hospital services, Brooks said.

Fairfax and Providence talked for more that a year about the possibility of opening an adult psychiatric unit on the hospital’s campus, Escarda, said.

Snohomish County has some of the worst access to in-patient psychiatric care in the state, about 3.5 beds per 100,000 population, according to documents submitted to the state Department of Health by Fairfax.

The county could need up to 106 psychiatric beds to meet current demand, according to Fairfax officials.

About a third of all adults in Snohomish County who need in-patient psychiatric services are treated at Fairfax’s 95-bed Kirkland facility.

The psychiatric hospital had nearly 3,000 patient admissions last year. On average, patients were treated for about nine days.

Meanwhile, the 75-bed psychiatric hospital planned by Ascend Health Corp. in Lynnwood would include services for current and former members of the military, mental health and drug and alcohol programs for women, faith-based mental health and drug and alcohol programs and help for new moms with mental illness.

Representatives for Ascend Health Corp. could not be reached for comment on their plans.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

Public hearing

A public hearing on proposals to open new in-patient psychiatric units in Everett and Lynnwood is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Everett Public Library’s auditorium, 2702 Hoyt Ave.

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