Need for more beds great

Reassuringly, people spoke in support of plans to build a 75-bed psychiatric hospital at Smokey Point during a public hearing last week. Just as people spoke in support of two proposals for such facilities in 2012, neither of which, frustratingly, came to fruition. Let’s hope this one gets built. The need is great.

Snohomish County has some of the worst access to in-patient psychiatric care in the state, about 7 beds per 100,000, while King County has about 23 psychiatric beds per 100,000 people. Currently, the county’s only inpatient psychiatric unit is at Swedish/Edmonds, a 23-bed facility that treats only adults.

In 2012, Fairfax Hospital, based in Kirkland, (which has 15 beds) had plans to open a 30-bed unit on the Pacific Campus of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, but is now expanding its own facility by 68 beds. And New York-based Ascend Health Corp. had plans for a $24 million, 75-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital in Lynnwood. The project was put on hold, however, when Ascend Health was sold. That plan, however morphed into the new proposal by US HealthVest of Texas to open a $18.8 million, 75-bed, 60,000-square-foot facility on a 4-acre site in Smokey Point, which would employ about 200 people, The Herald’s Sharon Salyer reported. If the state Department of Health approves the project, it could open in late 2015 or early 2016.

As Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick said, “We not only need 75 beds, we need 150 beds. This is a long overdue situation.”

In addition to the positive testimony at last week’s public hearing, letters of support for the facility have been written by individuals and organizations, including the Stillaguamish Tribe, the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Senior Services of Snohomish County, the mayors of Marysville and Arlington, Snohomish County Council member John Koster and Everett Police Chief Kathy Atwood, Salyer reported.

Importantly, the facility would include Snohomish County’s first inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents. Kichard Kresch, president and chief executive of US HealthVest, said although plans plans for the hospital are still being developed, approximately 20 percent of its 75 beds would be set aside for children and adolescents.

The hospital also plans to offer programs for people with drug and alcohol problems and assist active-duty military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder. Other programs include help for those with postpartum depression and geriatric psychiatric care.

Snohomish County desperately needs an inpatient psychiatric hospital; one that serves teens is especially valuable. We hope this new proposal is on the fast-track, and will come to much-needed fruition.

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