A public comment period opens this week for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed $29 million evaluation and treatment inpatient facility (E&T) in Sequim.
The application through the City of Sequim proposes a 16-bed psychiatric evaluation and treatment facility on seven acres of the southwest portion of an 18.19 acre parcel shared with the tribe’s Healing Clinic on the 500 block of South Ninth Avenue.
Brent Simcosky, the tribe’s health services director, said in an interview the new facility would help people in Clallam and Jefferson counties having psychiatric issues who may be suicidal and in crisis.
The facility’s application for design review is set to appear in legal notices on Feb. 7 and mailed to homes within 300 feet of the property.
City staff said application comments will be consolidated for a 20-day period through Feb. 27 for both the design review and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)’s Determination of Nonsignificance.
Sequim city assistant planner Travis Simmons said in an interview the SEPA comments on the project’s environmental impact will be a strict 20-day limit, but application comments can be submitted until a decision is rendered.
Find the application on the city’s website at sequimwa.gov/471/Current-Projects under the “Administrative” tab.
The design review process follows what’s called an A-2 process. City staff review an application, and Charisse Deschenes — Sequim’s deputy city manager and director of Community and Economic Development — would issue a decision on it, similarly to the Healing Clinic’s process.
If there is an appeal of the application or SEPA Determination of Nonsignificance, a decision would go before a hearing examiner, Simmons said.
He said that, using the A-2 process, the facility is classified as an essential public facility, and the area’s zone allows it to operate like the Healing Clinic, hence it going through an administration review.
Once posted, the city has 120 days to issue a decision on the application — in this case, by mid-May.
Simcosky said he feels the facility’s classification is correct and is an essential community service because there isn’t one of these hospitals for two counties.
Simcosky said if the application is approved, they’d likely start construction in July and it’d take about 15 months to finish in late 2025.
Costs for the facility have gone “way up,” he said, but they are optimistic they’ll receive the remaining portion of needed expenditures from the state this Legislative session. In March 2022, legislators approved $3.25 million for design and initial site work, and $13 million in 2023 for construction.
Tribal leaders would look to hire an executive director and begin developing policy and procedures next fall, Simcosky said.
He added that the tribe spent a lot of money up front for training and developing policies and procedures for the Healing Clinic to help with smoother operations.
For day-to-day operations, Simcosky said tribes are allowed to negotiate with the state reimbursement for day rates for services that will be about 10-15 percent above costs to help with operations and labor.
“If you operate at break even, then you’ll go out of business,” he said.
Simcosky said local hospitals aren’t able to negotiate rates like tribes and he feels it’d better if they could too.
Simcosky estimates that the average stay for a patient at the facility will be three-14 days before being released to their next step, such as going to family care or a long-term facility.
The evaluation and treatment inpatient facility could see about 300 patients a year or more, he said, as local mental health experts estimate Clallam and Jefferson county agencies send about 30 patients a month out of the area for crisis care.
“We’ll be easily full with those two counties,” Simcosky said.
As for safety measures, he said anyone going in or out must be buzzed in by security, and a patient cannot leave until they are released and escorted out.
Rooms won’t feature anything that will harm patients and fencing won’t be able to be climbed, Simcosky said.
Access to the new facility will continue on South Ninth Avenue, with a long-term plan to connect that road to River Road going west, parallel to U.S. Highway 101 and behind the nearby box stores.
Molly Martin, the Healing Clinic’s executive director, recently said that in the 18-plus months it’s been open, only five calls to the police have been made, all for non-patients, according to the Peninsula Daily News.
The $17 million, 16,800-square-foot medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic offers wrap-around services and medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs), such as liquid methadone to patients afflicted with opioid use disorder.
Noticeable backlash formed as the clinic went through the city’s application process with packed city government meetings, groups formed for and against the clinic, and large public forums were held.
Since the Healing Clinic has opened, Simcosky said he hasn’t gotten any phone calls about community concerns.
“Most of the community sees we’re doing good things,” he said.
Simcosky encourages community members with “legitimate concerns” to call his office at 360-582-4870 because there could be issues staff didn’t think of.
Referencing W. Ron Allen, CEO/tribal chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Simcosky said he mentioned early on that community members would change their minds once they saw how well we’d manage the program.
“We’re not going to make it unsafe,” Simcosky said.
Two of the significant conditions for the Healing Clinic made by a city-appointed hearing examiner in December 2020 were that the tribe hire a social services navigator to connect with potential patients, and to form an advisory committee to develop a monitoring and evaluation program and a contingency plan to “identify corrective measures if it causes impacts to public services through increased demands on law enforcement and other emergency services.”
Simcosky said they plan to continue the navigator position for at least three years, despite none of the clinic’s patients needing to be checked on by the position.
The mandated committee also voted in recent months that the clinic has no adverse effects on law enforcement or medical response in the area, and they’ve opted to move meetings from monthly to quarterly.
Simcosky mentioned former Sequim mayor and city councilor William Armacost as becoming a proponent for the clinic.
Armacost in an interview previously said his initial viewpoint of the Healing Clinic was wrong and he’s made amends with Allen after disagreements over it.
“I can’t say enough about how positive the Healing Clinic is and how it’s an asset for our community,” he said.
For more about the Jamestown Healing Clinic, visit jamestownhealingclinic.org.