Treating mental health and substance use in Clark County took a step forward this week.
Rainier Springs, 2805 N.E. 129th St., in Vancouver, held its “soft opening” Wednesday, the Vancouver hospital’s CEO Gary Petersen said, which means that there are now 24 beds available to treat mental wellness and substance use in Clark County.
The 53,278-square-foot facility has 72 total beds, and Petersen explained that Rainier Springs will open the remaining beds once the hospital is staffed at a capacity that can handle more patients. The hospital will employ 350 people when fully operational.
“We would anticipate by the first of the year to have all the units open,” Petersen said.
Rainier Springs is the first mental health and substance use facility open to everyone in Southwest Washington, regardless of insurance type, as all other facilities in the area only accept Medicaid, said Peggy McCarthy, executive director of the Southwest Washington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Rainier Springs will accept Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and out-of-pocket payments. The average inpatient stay at Rainier Springs will last about seven days. There will be outpatient services, too.
“It’s the first time everybody in Southwest Washington has had a place they can go,” McCarthy said. “They don’t have to cross the Columbia River and go to Portland. They don’t have to go to Seattle.”
McCarthy mentioned having a facility nearby is an important addition for those seeking help with their mental health or substance use. She explained that data shows that when family is involved in the recovery process, the recovery is better sustained.
While Portland isn’t that far away, McCarthy said that crossing the bridge or driving to deep south Portland can be an ordeal for some, especially if it has to be done consistently.
“It will make it easier for families to stay in the loop,” she added.
A day at Rainier Springs can include medication management, psychotherapy, activity therapy, journaling, yoga, group therapy and pet therapy. There will be multiple dogs on campus and pet therapy is sometimes the best way to help a patient who feels perturbed, Petersen said.
Petersen said that for about the last month, staff has been undergoing training. Some of that focuses on de-escalation and safe-patient handling. Rainier Springs is a far cry from what some might picture when they think of a mental health facility. It doesn’t at all resemble “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” It’s more like a hotel.
The hospital has basketball courts, an outdoor living area and a communal patient living room. There’s no barrier separating the nurses’ station from patients. There are pictures of mountains and lakes. And the cafeteria serves healthy, fresh food each day. There will also be no cuffs used to restrain patients.
“From the get-go, we want to give people that message, ‘We respect you, you’re not defective,’ ” Petersen told The Columbian in July. “There’s been a stigma about mental health. People have been afraid of coming forward, whether you’re an addict, or you’ve had depression. Over the years, the stigmas are lifting or changing.”