$25.7 million asked for center in Sequim

Residential mental health facility planned next-door to opioid treatment clinic

  • By Paul Gottlieb Special to Peninsula Daily News
  • Wednesday, February 8, 2023 1:30am
  • NewsClallam County

OLYMPIA — Seven months after an opioid-use disorder clinic opened in Sequim, its operators are seeking state funding to build a residential mental health crisis center next door.

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe officials have submitted a $25.7 million capital request for state lawmakers’ approval during the 105-day legislative biennial budget session that ends April 24, tribal officials said Monday.

Construction on the 16-bed inpatient clinic on the tribe-owned Healing Campus would begin in 2024 and be completed in 2025, Health Services Director Brent Simcosky said.

Like the nearby Jamestown Healing Clinic at 526 S. Ninth Ave., a medication-assisted treatment center, it will require a conditional use permit, making the new project subject to public comment.

“I don’t think it will be a problem,” Simcosky predicted.

The crisis center would accept patients in need of psychiatric evaluation and treatment who would stay overnight for up to 14 days before being reevaluated for up to another two weeks if need be, he said.

Persons cared for typically would be unable to meet their own health and safety needs or be in danger of harming themselves or someone else, Peninsula Behavioral Health CEO Wendy Sisk said Tuesday.

“There continues to be a need, when we have an individual who needs involuntary psychiatric commitment and we’re not able to secure a bed,” Sisk said, leaving the only alternative transporting them to an overnight facility out of town — if space is even available anywhere else.

“It’s been a rough few years for people,” she said. “We’re seeing the impact of anxiety and depression in record numbers. We have more requests for services that we ever have before.”

Tribal Council Chair Ron Allen said the facility will accept patients primarily from Clallam and Jefferson counties but may reach beyond the North Olympic Peninsula for clients if beds are available.

Simcosky said 24 beds might be more preferable than 16, based on need. But the number of beds is tied to the reimbursement the tribe receives for running the clinic.

“We’re designing it to add 16 more beds,” Allen said. “Roughly 32 is the target.”

The building will be modeled after the 16-bed Civil Center for Behavioral Health at Maple Lane in Centralia, which opened in January.

Both follow a community-based healthcare model being touted by state healthcare officials.

Sisk said crisis care is compromised when it is out of reach of the circle of family and friends so important to recovery.

“It’s a lot easier to provide better quality treatment if you engage the person in their natural support group, and it’s really hard to do that if you’re sending someone to Spokane or Longview or Bellingham to actively participate in the care of a loved one,” Sisk said.

The evaluation-treatment center has long been in planning stages.

Connection-friendly infrastructure for the $17 million Jamestown Healing Clinic was built with the crisis center in mind, Allen said.

In 2022, lawmakers approved $3.25 million for architectural services, engineering work, and cost and operational analyses. It was the largest supplemental capital budget allocation to the 24th District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County.

“We’re in the middle of design and engineering, and now we’re settling in on an actual location on the site,” he said.

Allen said on top of the requested state allocation for construction, the tribe would spend about $3 million for landscaping, lighting and other site improvements, putting the total cost at about $29 million to $30 million.

Allen said he has discussed the project with state lawmakers, including 24th District Rep. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend, Capital Budget Committee chair.

“What they told us is that probably, the most likely option was to do [funding] in two bits, one-half this session and the second half the [2024] session,” Allen said.

That works for tribal officials due to the length of construction and the time it may take to hire employees, he said.

It would staffed by about 30 Olympic Medical Center (OMC) medical personnel and tribal administrative employees.

Simcosky will be meeting with OMC officials next week to determine interaction protocols between the hospital and tribe.

“It’s going to be a community-wide collaboration,” he said.

Hospital officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Funding is supported by Port Angeles-area 24th District state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Rep. Mike Chapman, the legislators said Tuesday.

The facility would be the first of its kind in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“It has been needed and unavailable for as long as I am aware,” said Van De Wege, first elected to the House in 2006.

Chapman said he met Monday with Peninsula Behavioral Health officials. It’s not unusual for his constituents to bring up the lack of mental health services as a top concern.

“Reimbursements, to providers, need to increase to meet needs,” Chapman said.

“We’re going to lose providers if we don’t.”

Van De Wege, a member of the Health and Long Term Care Committee, said he supports the project.

The project is “very, very important to our community,” he said. “Something is desperately needed.”

Sisk said she talked Monday with Tharinger about the project.

He was unavailable Tuesday for comment.

“This need is not going to go away,” Sisk said.

There have been times when an open bed has not been available statewide, leaving PBH unable to hold someone because of legal time constraints but who is obviously in need of further care.

“We’ve had to allow them to walk out the door,” she said.

________

Legislative Reporter Paul Gottlieb, a former senior reporter at Peninsula Daily News, can be reached at cpaulgottlieb@gmail.com.

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