Health-care facility stirs debate in Snohomish

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — City officials are wrestling with whether mental-health day facilities belong in residential neighborhoods.

A public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 19 before the city council.

A similar public hearing before the city’s planning commission last month brought out 24 people; 23 testified against allowing such care facilities.

Kirk Vinish, city planning director, said the city has only one such facility, which is operated by Compass Health. Recently, the facility expanded to include personal counseling, training and assistance.

During public comments before the planning commission, neighbors of the facility in the 200 block of Avenue B reported incidents where clients of the facility have become combative.

"There is a young lady, a client, that has fixated on myself and my family," neighbor Delana Dwyer said. "She stands across the street and screams vulgarities and threatens to blow our heads off."

Laura Hines, another property owner, however, said she doesn’t have such problems.

Tom Sebastion, the former administrator of the Compass program in Snohomish, told the commission that the program helps clients.

"We assist them to be as successful as possible in maintaining independent living situations and help them avoid possible institutionalization," he said. "Our clients are adults who are disabled. We do not provide services to sex offenders or arsonists."

He also said he and his family live in the area, and he considers it safe.

The ordinance that the council will look at sets up standards under which this and other such facilities can operate, but allows the facility to continue with limitations, Vinish said.

Those limitations include no job training on site or sheltered workshops, no alcohol or drug treatment, and no detoxification. Hours must be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the ratio of staff to clients must be one to 12 as required by the state.

Vinish said the ordinance allows mental-health facilities to operate within 1,000 feet of a historic land-use designation area. That will allow the current facility to continue. But the planning commission said it is against this kind of facility in strictly residential locations, he said.

The city council is expected to hear public comment and vote Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. in the George Gilbertson Boardroom at 1601 Ave. D.

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