SMOKEY POINT — Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital, a $22 million building that will provide a variety of mental health treatment services, has just opened its doors to its first inpatients.
The 72,000-square-foot, two-story hospital at 3955 156th St. NE eventually will be able to treat 115 inpatients, the largest facility of its kind in Snohomish County.
It will help fill a decades-long need for more inpatient psychiatric beds, and is expected to draw patients from Snohomish County and throughout the region.
The hospital will open in stages, and is planning to have all 115 beds available in six to eight months, said Dr. Richard Kresch, president and chief executive of US HealthVest, the company which planned and operates the hospital.
A 14-bed adult unit is now open. Fourteen additional beds for adults with more severe psychiatric problems will open soon.
“We get a wide range of patients,” Kresch said. “It’s not optimal to have everyone on one unit.”
As a new psychiatric hospital, it is opening units slowly to ensure good care, he said.
The hospital now has about 60 employees. When it is fully open, that could grow to as many as 175, Kresch said.
Patients are admitted to psychiatric hospitals for problems such as depression severe enough that they are thinking of killing themselves, bipolar disorder, and people who have both a mental health issue and need treatment for drug or alcohol problem, Kresch said.
Plans also call for an inpatient adolescent unit — the county’s first — to be open in a month or so. “It’s a priority,” Kresch said.
The hospital’s opening will allow people to get inpatient care close to home, allowing family members and loved ones to be involved in their treatment.
Keith Binkley, president of the nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness Snohomish County, recently toured the building.
“For us, it’s essentially an answer to many prayers,” he said.
Binkley said he was impressed with the way the building is laid out as well as its design, including the wood, colors and art work selected for its interiors and a garden area for patients to enjoy fresh air.
A waiting room off to the side of the main entrance provides a more private, less overwhelming spot for people in emotional distress to be admitted, Binkley said.
“If you have to be temporarily housed in a facility, this one is vastly different than what you would have seen 10, 15, or 20 years ago,” Binkley said. “This is a caring, therapeutic environment.”
Peggy Ray is program manager for the Arlington Community Resource Center, and similar organizations in Granite Falls and Lake Stevens.
She said she sees the need “at least daily” for people to be hospitalized for mental health problems, which often also involve drug or alcohol issues.
“There’s a huge need,” Ray said. “We’re very, very excited this hospital is opening up.”
Plans for a psychiatric hospital in Snohomish County were first announced in 2013. Letters of support were written by a variety of local people and organizations, including the Stillaguamish Tribe, the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Senior Services of Snohomish County, and the mayors of Marysville and Arlington.
There are three other inpatient services for adults in Snohomish County. Fairfax Behavioral Health has 30 beds at the Pacific Campus of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, as well as a 34-bed unit predominately for adults 55 and older at EvergreenHealth Monroe. Swedish Edmonds operates a 23-bed unit on its campus.