Design rendering of the planned 16-bed mental health treatment center north of Stanwood. (Washington State Health Care Authority)

Design rendering of the planned 16-bed mental health treatment center north of Stanwood. (Washington State Health Care Authority)

Neighbors air concerns on proposed psychiatric center near Stanwood

A forum offered the community a first look at what the facility for involuntary mental health treatment may look like.

STANWOOD — Officials fielded more than 40 questions about a psychiatric facility proposed near Stanwood at an online town hall meeting Tuesday evening.

The 16-bed facility at 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW would provide long-term involuntary mental health treatment for adults.

The state Health Care Authority hosted the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours. Members of the public submitted written questions.

There are just six licensed beds for patients with 90- or 180-day orders in Snohomish County, officials said. The Stanwood project would add 16 more beds, with the potential for a second 16-bed facility if funding is available.

The project is part of a state initiative to move patients from large state hospitals into smaller facilities within their communities.

“We find people do better when they stay connected to friends, family and homes,” said Kara Panek, with the state Health Care Authority.

An official read aloud a comment of support from a Snohomish County resident, a family member of a person with mental illness for over 20 years. “A safe secure facility close to home would have made all the difference in their care,” the person wrote. “Snohomish County needs more psychiatric beds, including those for 90 to 180 day stays.”

But some neighbors have objected to the proposed location, citing concerns about safety, traffic and change to the neighborhood’s rural character.

Keri Waterland, director of the Health Care Authority’s behavioral health and recovery division, said the facility will be locked and staff will be trained to handle aggressive behavior.

There will be no armed guards. Staff will use medications and physical restraints to de-escalate patients.

Patient escapes are rare, said Brian Waiblinger, chief medical officer for the state Department of Social and Health Services. If an escape did happen, a patient would likely try to leave the area and get away from people, he said.

Design rendering of the planned 16-bed mental health treatment center north of Stanwood. (Washington State Health Care Authority)

Design rendering of the planned 16-bed mental health treatment center north of Stanwood. (Washington State Health Care Authority)

The facility will not serve people in the criminal justice system, officials noted.

“It’s much more likely that one of our clients would be the victim of violence than perpetuating violence,” Waiblinger said.

The proposed treatment center proposed is the result of a 2020 settlement between the Tulalip Tribes and the state. Under a compact with the state, the tribes are able to retain millions of dollars of sales tax revenue generated from business on the reservation. In exchange, they agreed to spend $35 million on an up-to-48-bed civil commitment center off the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

Several people submitted questions on how the site was selected.

Keith Banes, with the Wenaha Group, represented the tribes at the meeting. Banes said the tribes considered sites in Arlington and Monroe, but chose the Stanwood location for two reasons: the facility could be sited with a conditional use permit, and the tribes already owned the land.

No other sites are under consideration, he said.

The tribes will build the facility and turn over ownership to the state. From there, the state will procure a behavioral health services provider to operate it.

Some questioned why the public was not notified sooner.

Banes said the tribes followed the county’s process for public notification for land-use applications.

Architect Jim Wolch said the facility’s design has a “residential character” with the goal to create a “home-like environment” for patients.

Traffic impacts from a 16-bed center will be “minimal,” said Evan Haines, the project’s contractor. Most traffic will be from the projected 35 employees and the arrival and pick-up of patients. That will occur at scheduled times.

An 8-foot-wide shoulder will be constructed on 300th Street NW, he said.

Wolch said the the project is expected to generate less traffic than a medical office building.

The county hearing examiner will decide whether to approve the conditional use permit. That hearing is expected to take place in late summer or early fall, he said.

If it goes through, the facility could begin operations in 2024, he said.

A recording of the town hall meeting will be available online later this week.

For more information, visit

For questions, email

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; Twitter: @jacq_allison.

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