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News / Health / Health Wire

Washington buys closed Tukwila psychiatric hospital for nearly $30 million

By Hannah Furfaro, The Seattle Times
Published: August 8, 2023, 7:53am

SEATTLE — Washington has purchased a recently closed Tukwila psychiatric hospital, officials from the state Department of Social and Health Services announced Monday.

DSHS is expected to pay $29.95 million for Cascade Behavioral Health Hospital, which was one of the state’s largest privately owned psychiatric hospitals until Tennessee-based owner Acadia Healthcare laid off staff, discharged its patients and shuttered the hospital doors at the end of July.

Acadia didn’t immediately respond to questions about the sale.

The state expects to take possession of the hospital Aug. 15, said Tyler Hemstreet, spokesperson for DSHS.

State officials didn’t share information about the value of the property. But when Acadia purchased the building more than a decade ago, the company projected it would spend about $43 million to acquire and renovate the facility, according to documents submitted to the Department of Health. The latest tax valuation for the property was about $19 million, according to the King County Assessor’s Office.

The deal is intended to expand the state’s capacity to treat Washingtonians with serious psychiatric needs, Hemstreet said.

At least initially, the hospital will not reopen to the same types of patients Cascade served before its closure. It is currently licensed for 137 inpatients and, in the past, was used to treat a mix of voluntary and involuntary patients with substance use and mental health concerns.

Under the auspices of DSHS, the hospital will serve 20 so-called “civil conversion” patients from Western State Hospital — people with criminal charges who, because of their possible danger to themselves or others, or because they are “gravely disabled,” are moved to the civil side of the legal system.

The takeover of Cascade may free up some space at the state’s two public psychiatric hospitals, which Hemstreet said currently house some civil conversion patients.

The state was recently ordered by a federal judge to discharge or transfer many of the civil conversion patients from Western State, to make room for patients it’s required to care for under a long-standing legal settlement to keep people with severe mental illness from being warehoused in jails.

By law, Western State and Eastern State hospitals are supposed to prioritize beds for people who are coming from jails and are awaiting evaluations to determine if they can stand trial or need treatment to restore their competency. But civil conversion patients are currently taking up valuable bed space.

DSHS will eventually ramp up its patient population at Cascade, Hemstreet said, though he wasn’t sure when the hospital would be at full capacity.

Contract workers will staff the hospital until permanent positions are created, Hemstreet said. It’s unclear whether some of the hospital’s former workers might be rehired.

The closure of Cascade, which housed about 13% of King County’s involuntary mental health beds, dealt a significant blow to a behavioral health care system that’s already strained by workforce shortages and low bed capacity. Acadia officials warned state bureaucrats about its financial situation in the spring, but it has offered few additional details about why it shuttered Cascade so abruptly.