County, Providence partner to open mental health facility

By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff

A partnership project between regional government and Providence Mt. Carmel Hospital is moving forward to develop a 16-bed mental health inpatient facility in Colville that will be open as early as next summer. Work on the facility is tentatively slated for mid-2017 and will create an estimated 25-30 new jobs in the area.

The project will remodel existing space in the former Mt. Carmel Hospital building to house a 16-bed Adult Evaluation and Treatment (E&T) mental health facility. The project is being developed as a joint project between the Stevens County mental health services (NEW Alliance Counseling), the Spokane County Regional Behavioral Health Organization and Providence Mt. Carmel. Providence Mt. Carmel recently received a $2 million grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce to develop the E&T facility.

The facility is needed due to the scarcity of options where patients can be admitted for mental health assessments, according to NEW Alliance Executive Director David Nielsen.

“Right now there are times when we need to admit someone to a mental health center for evaluation and we literally can’t find a bed,” said Nielsen, noting that patients have been sent as far away as Seattle or Yakima in order to be admitted to a facility. “This will allow people from our communities who require hospitalization to be close to family while they undergo evaluation. Family involvement is very important to helping people be well.”

The facility, which will have an approximate annual operating cost of $4 million, will be primarily funded through Medicare and Medicaid payments from the Spokane County Regional Behavioral Health Organization that manages government healthcare funds for the region. Private insurance and payments from outside counties who may need to send a patient to the Mt. Carmel facility will also pay the costs. However, Nielsen said that the facility will most likely be used by patients from the counties that NEW Alliance Counseling provides services to.

“This facility will be prioritized for patients from Northeast Washington,” said Nielsen. “For our service area that includes Stevens, Lincoln and Ferry counties, it is not uncommon to have as many as 20 people a month who need to be involuntarily committed for evaluation, so we expect that the facility will be utilized by local patients 80 to 90 percent of the time.”

Situations where patients may need to be committed to the E&T facility include a wide range of circumstances, Nielsen related.

“People who need this facility may include patients who are seriously depressed and actively suicidal, those who have schizophrenia or other active mental illnesses and even those who may be in jail but are having mental issues,” said Nielsen.

By having the facility available, it will also relieve other community organizations that may not be suited to helping mental health patients but are used in the absence of a mental health facility.

“Many times, patients with mental illness are being sent to hospitals or jails that don’t have adequate mental health services, which puts a strain on staff and on the patient,” he said. “This will provide an appropriate local option.”