Peninsula Behavioral Health adds 3 programs

Services help those experiencing psychosis, provide housing

PORT ANGELES — Peninsula Behavioral Health sees one in every 20 people in any given year, CEO Wendy Sisk said.

Sisk spoke during the weekly Coffee with Colleen segment, hosted Wednesday by Colleen McAleer, the executive director of the Clallam County Economic Development Council.

PBH provides comprehensive behavioral healthcare to individuals and families experiencing moderate to severe behavioral health symptoms with a budget that has grown from $1.5 million 20 years ago to $16 million a year now, Sisk said.

PBH accepts all insurance coverages — including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance — and doesn’t decline services due to inability to pay, Sisk said.

“We don’t like finances to be a barrier,” she said. “We have dollars to cover uncompensated care.”

The agency provides assessments and referrals and 24/7 crisis intervention in addition to counseling and psychotherapy, Sisk said.

They target getting people tied into services who often end up going in and out of jail, she added.

“Sometimes people need medication or counseling and sometimes they just need a break,” Sisk said.

Since 2020, people’s stress levels are higher and we don’t know what “normal” is now, she said.

“When the pandemic started, we thought we would see a lot of depression, but actually what we saw was anxiety,” Sisk said. “People haven’t had their normal level set to where it was before.”

PBH also has added primary care into its mix of services because a small cohort of the population struggles in a primary care setting, she said.

“We see 100-125 people with one provider,” Sisk said. “We have found skin and breast cancer and hepatitis C. People often are dealing with co-morbidities such as COPD or cardiac issues. Behavioral health is one of the biggest drivers of healthcare spending.”

PBH has added three services in the past year: New Journeys, F-HARPS and F-PATH, she said. New Journeys helps those experiencing their first episode of psychosis or other conditions. F-HARPS provides housing subsidies and supports. F-PATH provides forensic outreach services.

“But there isn’t enough housing, that’s a real challenge,” Sisk said.

People with behavioral health issues are more successful with stable housing and a sense of purpose and employment, she said.

PBH has been working with housing since the mid-1980s, beginning with group homes, a model going by the wayside, Sisk said.

It currently is working on three projects, she added.

The agency obtained $5 million to convert the former All-View Motel into the Dawn View Apartments, thanks to the efforts of Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson, she said.

The complex features 26 units, including four transitional units and one market rate unit for a veteran who doesn’t qualify otherwise, Sisk said.

They largely are small studio apartments, with a refrigerator, stove, sink and bathroom, she said, adding that putting people in motel rooms is sheltering them, not housing them.

The complex has reunited six families in the past year, had only two people, experienced zero evictions and only two EMS calls, which were for diabetes, Sisk said.

PBH also is converting its old office in Sequim into five bedrooms of supportive housing, which will be its first ADA-compliant housing, she said.

“We are able to do this project because of the county’s affordable housing tax dollars,” Sisk said. “We hope to have it finished by the end of the summer.”

In Port Angeles, PBH is developing its property on Second and Oak streets — right at the top of the switchbacks behind Country Aire Natural Foods — into a $10 million to $12 million building with four two-bedroom apartments, 25 one-bedroom apartments and seven studios, with two or three ADA units, she said.

The agency is submitting a federal funding request to U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, and pursing Apple Health and Homes funding from the state Department of Commerce, Sisk said.

The goal is to complete the project by the end of next year or the first quarter of 2026, she said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached by email at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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