Thurston County has an interesting case of competing mental-health hospital proposals. At the very least, this is a strong signal that our underserved community may finally get more in-patient services in a year or so.
It’s unfortunate that proponents of each facility are fighting over turf. But our community and state need to expand the psychiatric bed supply to get urgent care to where it is needed. The courts have already intervened on the issue related to warehousing of mentally ill individuals in hospital emergency rooms while awaiting transfer to state-run facilities.
A hearing this week (Nov. 16) should help sort out the viability of the Olympia Behavioral Health proposal submitted jointly by Providence St. Peter Hospital and Fairfax Behavioral Health. Fairfax is a large provider of inpatient psychiatric services in Washington.
The 85-bed Providence facility could open early in 2018. The applicants estimate there is a current 49-bed shortage that is expected to grow to 65 by 2031.
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One question is whether this facility can coexist with another proposal by US HealthVest, a New York-based firm that is calling its rival, 75-bed proposal South Sound Behavioral Hospital. The latter already has been issued a certificate of need by the state Department of Health — an action needed for any project to go forward.
Providence and Fairfax have filed a challenge to that, and a Dec. 7 hearing is scheduled before a health-law hearings judge to consider the arguments.
Providence has the advantage of already running a general-purpose hospital in our community and a good track record of providing charity care to those who need help but cannot afford it. St. Peter’s parent, Providence Heath & Services in Renton, has teamed up with Fairfax for a potential project in Spokane, and Fairfax and Providence Everett have established a relationship.
US HealthVest has a facility under construction in Marysville, and its proposal would make use of vacant space at Lacey’s Woodland Square, which is more centrally located than the Marvin Road site proposed by Providence or US HealthVest’s alternative site.
The New York company has also pointed out that the need for a larger psychiatric hospital in Thurston County has been clear for a long time, but Providence and Fairfax didn’t act until its proposal was launched.
That leaves state regulators and our community in a quandary. Both proposals could be approved. What’s most important is that at least one project moves forward and that applicants can ensure that their project happens in a timely way.
Our community needs the certainty of a new facility.