SEQUIM — A public comment period opens today for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed $29 million evaluation and treatment inpatient facility in Sequim.
The application for the E&T through the City of Sequim proposes a 16-bed psychiatric evaluation and treatment facility on 7 acres of the southwest portion of an 18.19-acre parcel shared with the tribe’s Healing Clinic on the 500 block of South Ninth Avenue.
Brent Simcosky, the tribe’s health services director, said in an interview the new facility would help people in Clallam and Jefferson counties having psychiatric issues who may be suicidal and in crisis.
The facility’s application for design review is set to appear in legal notices today and mailed to homes within 300 feet of the property.
City staff said application comments will be consolidated for a 20-day period through Feb. 27 for both the design review and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)’s Determination of Nonsignificance.
Sequim Assistant Planner Travis Simmons said in an interview the SEPA comments on the project’s environmental impact will be a strict 20-day limit, but application comments can be submitted until a decision is rendered.
The application is on the city’s website at sequimwa.gov/471/Current-Projects under the “Administrative” tab.
The design review process follows what’s called an A-2 process. City staff review an application, and Charisse Deschenes — Sequim’s deputy city manager and director of Community and Economic Development — issues a decision on it, similarly to the Healing Clinic’s process.
If there is an appeal of the application or SEPA Determination of Nonsignificance, a decision would go before a hearing examiner, Simmons said.
He said that, using the A-2 process, the facility is classified as an essential public facility, and the area’s zone allows it to operate like the Healing Clinic. Therefore, it’s going through an administration review.
Once posted, the city has 120 days to issue a decision on the application — in this case, by mid-May.
Simcosky said he feels the facility’s classification is correct and is an essential community service because there isn’t one of these hospitals for two counties.
Simcosky said if the application is approved, construction likely would start in July and be completed in about 15 months in late 2025.
Costs for the facility have gone “way up,” he said, but tribal leaders are optimistic it will receive the remaining portion of needed expenditures from the state this legislative session.
In March 2022, legislators approved $3.25 million for design and initial site work, and they approved $13 million in 2023 for construction.
Tribal leaders would look to hire an executive director and begin developing policy and procedures next fall, Simcosky said.
He added that the tribe spent a lot of money up front for training and developing policies and procedures for the Healing Clinic to help with smoother operations.
For day-to-day operations, Simcosky said tribes are allowed to negotiate with the state reimbursement for day rates for services that will be about 10 percent to 15 percent above costs to help with operations and labor.
“If you operate at break even, then you’ll go out of business,” he said.
Simcosky said local hospitals aren’t able to negotiate rates like tribes, and he feels it’d better if they could too.
Simcosky estimates that the average stay for a patient at the facility would be three to 14 days before being released to their next step, such as going to family care or a long-term facility.
The evaluation and treatment inpatient facility could see about 300 patients a year or more, he said, as local mental health experts estimate Clallam and Jefferson county agencies send about 30 patients a month out of the area for crisis care.
“We’ll be easily full with those two counties,” Simcosky said.
As for safety measures, he said anyone going in or out must be buzzed in by security, and a patient could not leave until after they are released and escorted out.
Rooms wouldn’t feature anything that would harm patients, and fencing would be designed to be unclimbable, Simcosky said.
Access to the new facility would continue to be on South Ninth Avenue, with a long-term plan to connect that road to River Road going west, parallel to U.S. Highway 101 and behind the nearby box stores.
Since the opening of the Healing Clinic, which was controversial when it was built, Simcosky hasn’t received any phone calls about community concerns, he said.
Simcosky encourages community members with legitimate concerns to call his office at 360-582-4870 because there could be issues staff didn’t think of.
Two of the significant conditions for the Healing Clinic made by a city-appointed hearing examiner in December 2020 were that the tribe hire a social services navigator to connect with potential patients, and to form an advisory committee to develop a monitoring and evaluation program and a contingency plan to “identify corrective measures if it causes impacts to public services through increased demands on law enforcement and other emergency services.”
Simcosky said they plan to continue the navigator position for at least three years, despite none of the clinic’s patients needing to be checked on by the position.
The mandated committee also voted in recent months that the clinic has no adverse effects on law enforcement or medical response in the area, and they’ve opted to move meetings from monthly to quarterly.
For more about the Jamestown Healing Clinic, visit jamestownhealingclinic.org.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.