EVERETT — Residents are starting to move into Compass Health’s $26 million new apartment building a block off Broadway.
The mental health care provider celebrated the 46,877-square-foot facility’s grand opening with a virtual ceremony about 15 months after groundbreaking. As of Friday, 12 people were in their new studio apartments.
Before year’s end, all 82 units are expected to be occupied. Once a resident moves in, it’s their home until they move on.
“It is transformational,” Compass Health CEO Tom Sebastian said Thursday. “It is a beautiful building and we’re proud of that, but it’s the transformation for people.”
The building operates on a “housing first” model for people who were homeless or have chronic behavioral health conditions. The concept means giving people shelter and support services without requiring them to be clean and sober. They’ll have behavioral, medical and mental health professionals on site at all hours to respond quickly if residents need help.
The five-story building on the corner of 33rd Street and Lombard Avenue doubled Compass Health’s housing in Snohomish County. It the first of three phases to transform the organization’s Broadway campus into a modern housing and mental health treatment hub.
“What we found is the old way of doing things didn’t work,” Sebastian said. “We had to change the idea of, ‘Hey, get stable, get sober, get recovered, then we’ll give you a place to work.’ It can work, but it doesn’t work for this particular clientele.”
The virtual tour revealed that each studio apartment has its own bathroom and kitchen. One of the units is a three-bedroom apartment for people coming out of state institutions, such as Western State Hospital. Ten of the studios are reserved for veterans. Rooms along the east side of the building look out over the Snohomish River valley and toward the Cascade Range.
Tenants can enjoy the Cronin Family Courtyard, named after project donors.
“There are lots of windows in the buildings, so some of the views are spectacular,” Sebastian said.
The main floor has a commercial kitchen and dining hall where residents can cook and eat together. There are communal laundry machines, as well. Sebastian said he hopes a space designed for a community center will come to be used by people outside of the organization as the pandemic loosens its grip on society.
In a prerecorded video segment during the virtual ceremony Friday, several elected officials praised the project’s success through the pandemic and Compass Health’s role in Everett and the region.
“I’m grateful to have Compass Health here in Everett caring for our community members in need,” Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said.
State Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, credited the organization for successfully getting the project in Inslee’s initial budget proposal in late 2020. She supported funding Compass Health’s Phase 2 project — an even larger, 82,000-square-foot building, with 16 beds for evaluation and treatment; another 16 beds for crisis stabilization; and crisis, triage and high-frequency intensive services. Robinson said there’s a dire need to address people’s health needs, and she hopes it becomes another piece of evidence for other communities to model similar partnerships after.
“We need facilities like that all over the state,” Robinson said Wednesday. “We have been trying to make strategic investments for a number of years now in community facilities to take pressure off Western State Hospital … We want to be able to treat and respond to people as close to their home communities as possible. It’s better care.”
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Legislature’s nearly $6.3 billion capital budget, which included $14 million for Compass Health’s next phase. Construction of Phase 2 could start later this year. That facility will replace the 70-year-old Bailey Center on Broadway.
“Most importantly the final capital budget funds a number of major programs and projects that will help our most vulnerable residents,” Inslee said as he signed the budget bill Tuesday. “It provides new housing funding for low-income Washingtonians, including people with chronic mental illnesses, people with developmental disabilities, farm workers, and people who are homeless and people in need of permanent supportive housing.”
The early estimate for the Phase 2 project is around $50 million, Sebastian said. But it’s in early design now, and the number could change by the time it progresses later this year.
“This is really about, in the first phase, creating home for the residents and creating community,” Sebastian said. “This is just the first step. This region has very significant needs for access to behavioral health, now more than ever.”
Correction: This story has been modified to reflect the target date for Compass Health’s Broadway redevelopment project Phase 2 construction, which is set to begin in late 2021.