Thurston County suddenly finds itself with two mental health hospital proposals after Providence Health & Services, working with Fairfax Behavioral Health, announced plans Wednesday to open an 85-bed psychiatric hospital here at an estimated cost of $30 million.
Providence and Fairfax have submitted a letter of intent to the state Department of Health and will follow that with a certificate of need application that spells out its plans in greater detail. The application is expected to be submitted toward the end of May.
Fairfax has locations in Kirkland, Everett and Monroe, totaling 221 psychiatric and substance-abuse beds. Providence also works with Faifax in Everett and Spokane. A Fairfax representative could not immediately be reached.
Medrice Coluccio, chief executive for Providence in Southwest Washington, said Wednesday that Providence has been caring for mental health patients for years, but teaming up with Fairfax presents an opportunity to expand those services. The proposed hospital will serve all ages, from children to the elderly, she said.
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She also said the psychiatric hospital proposal does not trump its plans for the Providence Community Care Center in downtown Olympia, which will serve downtown’s homeless population.
“We are going forward with both those projects,” she said, adding that they’re still finalizing a downtown site.
Wednesday’s announcement follows one from US HealthVest, which has applied to build a 75-bed hospital in the county. HealthVest has identified two potential locations, both in Lacey. HealthVest might renovate an existing office building near Woodland Square Loop or build new in Hawks Prairie. The company is also building a mental health hospital in Snohomish County and operates an existing facility in the Chicago area.
US HealthVest President and Chief Executive Richard Kresch could not be reached Wednesday. Public meetings are set for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week to discuss the HealthVest proposal. Providence likely will hold public meetings, too, after it submits its certificate of need application.
Coluccio said she views the upcoming Providence/Fairfax certificate of need application as a competing application to the HealthVest proposal.
“We are the best option,” she said, citing Providence’s history in the community as well as its partnership with Fairfax.
“Our missions are aligned in terms of caring for the under-served,” Coluccio said.
The county and region apparently have some serious mental health needs, according to data in a news release about Wednesday’s announcement.
▪ More than 67,000 adults in the county have a mental health condition. The county has a population of about 260,000.
▪ Eighty-two percent of the homeless population surveyed in Olympia report having a persistent mental health condition. The number of homeless in the county was recently pegged at 579.
▪ The ratio of population to mental health providers in the county is 520 to 1, compared to 380 to 1 in the state.
▪ More than 10 percent of the patients, or about 22 a day, who come to the emergency room at Providence St. Peter Hospital need behavioral health services.
Providence St. Peter Hospital also operates a crisis services department that serves the region, including the county, but “it is regularly at capacity and unable to accept additional patients from the county and beyond,” the news release reads.
Meanwhile, US HealthVest is set to hold a public meeting about its plans at 6 p.m. May 3 at Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE. The state Department of Health also will have a public meeting at 10:30 a.m. May 4 at Lacey Timberland Library, 500 College St. SE.