Psychiatric hospital at Smokey Point gets public support

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick said she’s seen the need for more in-patient psychiatric treatment services in Snohomish County for years.

“This is a huge problem for us,” she said. “It’s our responsibility.”

Eslick was one of about 40 people who attended a public hearing Thursday in Everett to discuss plans to build a 75-bed psychiatric hospital at Smokey Point.

“We not only need 75 beds, we need 150 beds,” she said. “This is a long overdue situation.”

The $18.8 million hospital would provide the first in-patient psychiatric unit in the county for children and adolescents, as well as in-patient services for adults.

The proposal comes from US HealthVest, a Texas-based company that would build the hospital on a 4-acre site at 15621 Smokey Point Blvd.

Plans for the hospital are being reviewed by the state Department of Health, which considers the need for proposed new medical facilities, including psychiatric hospitals. A decision is expected by Dec. 16.

If approved, the new psychiatric hospital is scheduled to open in late 2015 or early 2016.

Currently, the county’s only in-patient psychiatric unit is at Swedish/Edmonds. The 23-bed unit only treats adults.

Rosemary Ragnstad, of Arlington, was among the first to speak at the hearing.

“I’ll be your neighbor, about five miles away,” she said. “It’s most needed.”

Jim Boss, a member of the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the organization gets calls every day on the need for improved access to mental health services.

The lack of in-patient psychiatric beds often sends adults and children traveling to King County, or even cross-state to Spokane County for treatment, he said.

Father Jay DeFolco is a pastor at three area Catholic parishes as well as serving as chaplain at the Snohomish County Jail and the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Youth and adults in detention with mental illness are often trapped in a revolving door, he said.

“They come, receive their medications, begin to function and then we release them. The county facilities, whether for adults or juveniles, are not the place to meet their needs,” he said.

One of the few people to question the need for the psychiatric hospital was Andy Hanner, who works for Acadia Healthcare, which has plans to open a 135-bed psychiatric facility in Tukwila.

He said that there currently are no roads or utilities located on the site of the proposed psychiatric hospital in Smokey Point, questioning whether the site could be prepared in less than 12 months at the estimated cost of $500,000.

Marie Jubie, of Marysville, said she has bipolar disorder and is a volunteer with the North Sound Mental Health Administration Advisory Board.

She said that once when she needed mental health treatment at Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland, she had to take three buses to get there from Marysville.

Speaking in support of the proposed Smokey Point facility Jubie said, “I say come on with your beds and bring more with you.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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