Wednesday, June 16, 2021
June 16, 2021

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Clark County to gain new long-term psychiatric care facility in 2023

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

After years of pleas from mental health advocates, Clark County is set to have a local long-term psychiatric care facility.

As Clark County continues to grow, the county still lacks long-term treatment options for those hospitalized under an Involuntary Treatment Act order.

The new 48-bed facility, due to open in April 2023 near Washington State University Vancouver, fits into Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to decentralize long-term psychiatric care from the 467-bed Western State Hospital in Lakewood by opening numerous smaller, community-based treatment centers throughout Washington.

Dr. Brian Waiblinger, chief medical officer of the Department of Social and Health Services, said Clark County’s facility will treat only Involuntary Treatment Act patients, and not voluntary patients.

Most patients will be admitted from other local short-term treatment centers if they are deemed to be in need of a 90-to-180-day treatment hold.

As Oregon Public Broadcasting has reported, Clark County’s facility will be the first facility for Washington’s new community-based treatment approach.

Waiblinger said the building will have three different 16-bed units, one of which will be run by the state, with the other two contracted by the Washington State Health Care Authority to other providers.

“The governor’s vision is to significantly reduce the number of patients at the state hospital, and Vancouver is under-served for long- term psychiatric treatment beds,” Waiblinger said. “It makes sense to have a facility there that would be close to family and help people transition back to their lives.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Washington executive director Kim Schneiderman said the facility will be a significant step forward for mental health treatment in Clark County.

“We desperately need it,” Schneiderman said. “We’re short of beds throughout Washington. To keep people close to their families and their support systems is really paramount to recovery.”

The facility was first proposed for Vancouver’s Bagley Downs neighborhood, but has since been slated for a location near the intersection of Northeast 50th Avenue and Northeast 159th Street in the Mount Vista area.

Waiblinger said easement concerns and problems with the facility layout at the Bagley Downs spot led to the shift in location.

Some Mount Vista residents are worried about the new location’s proximity to WSU Vancouver and Vancouver iTech Preparatory school.

Waiblinger said elopement of patients won’t be a problem and added that patients will not be allowed to leave the campus on their own. He said the design of the building is modern, and that you can’t see into the facility’s yard from the outside.

“It is going to be done in an aesthetically pleasing and secure way,” he said.

Waiblinger and Schneiderman also said it’s a misconception to think that patients at these facilities are dangerous or that it will make the neighborhood unsafe.

Schneiderman said the lack of a facility like this is more detrimental to the community.

“Part of the problem comes from the fact that people are not receiving the treatment they need,” she said. “We should be glad that people can get treatment and recover.”

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