Thurston County’s first mental health hospital is a step closer to reality after the Lacey City Council unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the $22 million project.
The council voted Thursday to approve the US HealthVest proposal to locate the hospital at 605 Woodland Square Loop SE, the site of a former state office building that the hospital operator wants to renovate into a 115-bed facility. South Sound Behavioral Hospital will serve patients of all ages and is expected to open in 2018.
A project that seeks a conditional use permit in Lacey automatically comes before the city’s hearings examiner. That hearing was in May and the hearings examiner later recommended approval of the permit, with several conditions. The city also had some requirements of its own, which associate planner Sarah Schelling explained to the council Thursday.
Perhaps chief among them is that the city is requiring US HealthVest to come up with an “operations and communication” plan that will be shared with Lacey police and fire officials. That plan will include patient discharge procedures and security measures. The hospital will accept patients on a referral basis, either by a doctor or law enforcement, if they’re dealing with someone in crisis. The hospital will not accept violent criminals or sex offenders, Schelling said.
“People who would be treated at Western State Hospital will not be treated at this facility,” she said.
Although the council approved the conditional use permit, US HealthVest’s plan has been opposed by Providence St. Peter Hospital and Fairfax Behavioral Health, which submitted their own plan for a mental health hospital called Olympia Behavioral Health.
Providence issued a statement before Thursday’s meeting that its goal remains unchanged.
“Whether or not the city of Lacey grants US HealthVest a conditional use permit will not impact the continued pursuit by Providence and Fairfax to seek a certificate of need for a 85-bed psychiatric hospital,” spokesman Chris Thomas said. “We are not losing hope that we will succeed in this endeavor.
“Although we have doubts about the longevity of US HealthVest as a community partner, if the city of Lacey approves the conditional use permit, we do not anticipate appealing that decision,” Thomas said.
A certificate of need is required by the state Department of Health when a new medical facility or service is proposed. US HealthVest was issued a certificate of need for its mental health hospital, which was later appealed by Providence and Fairfax. The HealthVest decision was upheld.
The Providence and Fairfax certificate of need was rejected by the state. A request for reconsideration also was denied. It was not immediately clear whether Providence and Fairfax had appealed the state’s decision.
Increased mental health services are needed in Thurston County, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt said.
“We desperately need some kind of facility in Thurston County, and it seems like this is going to meet the need,” she said about the US HealthVest project.