State lawmakers recently approved $3.25 million in planning funds for a 16-bed mental-health crisis facility in Sequim.
The supplemental capital budget allocation from the legislative session will pay for architectural services, engineering work, a cost analysis, an operational analysis, permitting and public outreach, said Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend), the capital budget committee chair, on March 11.
The funds do not cover construction — estimated at $15 million in 2019, when the facility was the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Phase 2 piece to its Phase 1 medication-assisted drug treatment (MAT) clinic.
Phase 2 was never funded, and that estimate has more than doubled to about $31 million, Brent Simcosky, the tribe’s health director, said last week.
The MAT clinic — also called the Healing Clinic — at 526 S. Ninth Ave. is set to open in early April, located on an approximate 50-acre parcel of tribal-owned land behind Costco in Sequim.
The Healing Campus is a likely site for the evaluation and treatment (E and T) psychiatric hospital south of the new facility, Simcosky said.
It will be “a state of the art facility,” W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal chair/CEO, said Monday.
“It (and the Healing Clinic) will be a complement to the area,” he said.
Patients would stay at the facility on a short-term basis.
“It can be anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to a couple of weeks would be the average,” Simcosky said.
Establishment of the mental-health crisis facility is supported by public hospitals in Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Forks, said CEOs for Jefferson Healthcare hospital and Forks Community Hospital, and a spokesperson for Olympic Medical Center.
Simcosky said Port Angeles-based OMC would likely contract with the tribe to staff the facility.
He said the building likely would be 15,000-20,000 square feet, a size similar to the Healing Clinic, and will require a conditional use permit through the City of Sequim.
Simcosky predicted the tribe likely won’t receive funding to begin the slew of studies and analyses until June.
“With the current cost of construction, with costs going through the roof, I don’t know that we’ll build it until the cost goes down a bit,” Simcosky said.
Simcosky said they’ve always intended to build the psychiatric hospital, but funding wasn’t available so they postponed it.
He was surprised Tharinger approached him in February and asked him to put together a construction proposal.
A contractor’s quick estimate put the price tag at about $31 million based on a Vancouver, Wa., clinic, Simcosky said.
Tharinger’s office told Simcosky that was too much, suggesting he put together a preliminary-work estimate, which the Legislature approved.
Simcosky said the pandemic may have brought the issue to the forefront among North Olympic Peninsula healthcare professionals who have been struggling with beds filled by COVID-19 patients and services squeezed tight for mental-crisis patients that hospitals are ill-equipped to care for.
“There’s not a good place to put someone who could be damaging to themselves or others,” Simcosky said.
“There’s no 24-hour safety room.
“You want people in crisis to become stable,” he added. “You don’t want them running around in the community, so (psychiatric) hospitals like this make sense.”
The E and T facility would house patients in 16 safety rooms with 24-hour cameras and be absent of fixtures and other features with which they could use harm themselves.
Allen said it would be a locked down facility including its recreation areas outside.
“Security is as important to us as the treatment,” he said. “The Healing Campus is also working to prevent patients from going (to the psychiatric hospital) too.”
Simcosky said hospitals would have to offer services similar to what the tribe envisions at a loss, unlike the tribe, which has a higher Medicare reimbursement rate.
“The nice thing about us is, we all collaborate and work together,” he said. “We might have a better hospital reimbursement rate, but don’t have the skills OMC does, so we end up teaming up and helping everybody.”
The closest inpatient facility like the proposed Sequim psychiatric hospital is in Bremerton.
CEO Wendy Sisk with Peninsula Behavioral Health said the facility would complement other mental health services on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“The state is reporting high numbers of patients throughout the state being housed in medical facilities while awaiting inpatient psychiatric care,” Sisk said in a text message.
“As with other healthcare, it is important to have access to the full spectrum of care for mental health conditions,” she said.
Tharinger said he would review what is proposed by the tribe for the 2023 legislative session to determine if money is available.
Tharinger endorsed the placement of facilities like the one being contemplated in Sequim as an alternative to residents in crisis going elsewhere.
“These people end up in the hospitals, in ER, and that’s just not a good place,” Tharinger said.
“It’s expensive, if fills up a room and they don’t get the correct treatment.”
Jennifer Burkhardt, OMC’s legal counsel and human resources director, said OMC and Jefferson Healthcare representatives have been meeting with state lawmakers to discuss the need for a psychiatric hospital on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“Our emergency department sees behavioral health and substance use disorder patients on a daily basis,” she said, adding OMC is looking forward to partnering with the tribe as the project moves forward.
State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim said the community needs the evaluation and treatment center.
“I’ve always been excited about the MAT clinic, but the second phase is what has interested me the most,” he said.
“I think it will be a game changer.”
Sequim Gazette reporter Matthew Nash contributed to this report.