PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Healthcare board has unanimously voted in favor of affiliating the hospital with Discovery Behavioral Health, a local nonprofit and mental health care provider.
The five commissioners voted at their Wednesday meeting to allow hospital CEO Mike Glenn to begin work on the affiliation.
The decision is the first step in an eventual acquisition of the mental health services provider by the hospital. Another resolution to approve the acquisition is expected to be presented to the commissioners by the end of the year.
“This is kind of the culmination of whole-person care,” said Adam Marquis, CEO of Discovery Behavioral Health in Port Townsend.
Marquis said this decision comes after two years of work by the staff of both organizations, which have a history of working in cooperation. In the past, Jefferson Healthcare has worked with Discovery Behavioral Health to hire mental health staff for the hospital and apply for grants.
However, a more in-depth partnership is needed for the hospital to comply with a mandate from the Washington State Health Care Authority to integrate mental health care services at hospitals across the state by 2020.
The partnership was well-received by community members who spoke during Wednesday’s meeting.
“We see that the whole community is coming together for this,” said Val Phimister, president of the Port Townsend branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Mental health and medical health are so connected that you can’t separate them if you want to treat the whole person.”
Glenn didn’t say how much acquiring Discovery Behavioral Health could cost the hospital but promised the commissioners more information as the year goes on. The plan is expected to transfer all Discovery Behavioral Health employees over to Jefferson Healthcare.
At this early stage, Wednesday’s decision simply means the two organizations will begin working toward co-managing the clinic currently run by Discovery Behavioral Health, which provides services for behavioral health, chemical dependency and substance-use disorders.
The two organizations will continue to operate in their respective locations until a site plan can be developed to put mental health services under the same roof as the hospital medical services.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.