Article: Mental Health Evaluation and Treatment Center Coming to Lewis County

July 28, 2016

By Justyna Tomtas, The Chronicle

Coming January 2018: 22-Bed Facility Near Port of Centralia Property Will Be First of its Kind in Area

In a little over a year, Lewis County will have its own 22-bed mental health evaluation and treatment center housed near the Port of Centralia.

The roughly $8 million facility will provide between 48 and 52 jobs in the county while ensuring there are more psychiatric beds for Lewis County residents.

The evaluation and treatment center will be a new program provided by Cascade Mental Health Care.

According to Chief Executive Officer Richard Stride, the new facility will meet a need by providing care that mental health patients were previously unable to get in the area. 

Currently, patients under the Involuntary Treatment Act are taken to other counties, sometimes as far away as Spokane.

“There are not enough psychiatric beds available and with everything going on with Western State Hospital right now, I know community beds are something the Legislature is concentrating on,” Stride said. “Our thoughts were that we didn’t want Lewis County residents having to go to other places in Washington where their family couldn’t visit them … so we began talking about building a facility.”

Those treated under the act are deemed to be gravely disabled, or a threat to themselves and others. 

Matt Patten, clinical director for Cascade, said about 88 clients are sent out of county for mental health services each year.

Cascade Mental Health Care is a part of a behavioral health organization with a community of about 278,000 people, Michele Wilsie, chief financial officer of Cascade, said. When searching for an available bed for that population, typically there are only between 17 and 32 available. 

“They are always full and so for us to provide the support we need for the people who are experiencing the mental illness and the symptoms that we need to take care of, it’s really difficult for those people,” Wilsie said.

The facility will contain 16 beds in a locked unit for those who are court ordered to receive mental health treatment and evaluation for a certain amount of time. The other six beds will be in an unlocked unit, where patients can voluntarily admit themselves. 

Currently, Cascade Mental Health Care already offers three beds in its hospital diversion house for those who need 24-hour care. The already established program catering to those who voluntarily admit themselves will be moved to the new facility, where the number of beds will be doubled for those patients.

Although the main goal is to help the citizens of Lewis County who need it, Patten said any open beds will be available to other counties that are part of the network. Between Lewis County, and the surrounding counties, Patten said the facility will be “very near capacity.”

The project, which has been discussed for about seven or eight years, hit a tipping point after the Legislature allocated $3 million in funding from the capital budget. 

Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, was instrumental in getting the funds, as was Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said Stride.

“This is an example that if you give a good idea to the Legislature, the Legislature can act on it,” DeBolt said.

He said the new facility, along with the retooling of the former Maple Lane School which has been converted to serve the mentally ill in the justice system, will give the area the ability to be a regional hub to help people.

“Right now we are short triage beds all over the state,” DeBolt said. “We have to do a better job evaluating and triaging patients on a mental health level so Lewis County has a great organization, Cascade Mental Health, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to get some immediate triage beds out and get more facilities for the community.”

The number of jobs the facility brings will also be a benefit to the area, as more health care professionals and counselors begin to work and live in the area, DeBolt said. 

Although some of the jobs from the hospital diversion house will shift over to the new facility, Wilsie said there will be new jobs ranging from peer support counselors to a medical director. 

Crews are expected to break ground for the facility, which will be sized between 18,000 and 23,000 square feet, on Nov. 1. Cascade Mental Health Care has already completed a feasibility study and has made an offer to the Port of Centralia for an undeveloped site in the amount of $403,365.60. Port Commissioners approved the sale of property last week, and Wilsie said the deal should be closed at the beginning of September.

Although the facility was given a boost in funds with the $3 million from the capital budget, the remainder of the money will come from a loan. Wilsie said Cascade Mental Health Care is currently finishing its loan packages.

It’s important to note the facility will not be a psychiatric hospital, Stride said. 

“We won’t have individuals that are dangerous or anything like that,” he said. “These will be people, Lewis County residents, that need a hand up and most of them will be clients we are familiar with.”

The six unlocked rooms will be more home-like, while the other locked units will also be welcoming, but will be more of a hospital-type setting, Stride said. 

Patients who are admitted could be experiencing some sort of psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder with psychotic features or depression. 

“We are not trying to build a kingdom here, we are trying to meet the needs of Lewis County residents by providing them a stable environment where they can recover, while also providing jobs for people here in Lewis County,” Stride said. “We think it’s a win-win.”

Wilsie said the amount of community support they have received for the project has been vast. From county commissioners, to officials with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, many see a need for this type of treatment and evaluation center. 

“We are grateful every day for the support we get from the community and the people we serve that say ‘thank you,’” Wilsie said. 

The facility is an addition to the many services Cascade Mental Health Care offers as it becomes a fully integrated center with all of the needed supports that an individual with a mental health challenge might need access to, Wilsie said. 

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