OLYMPIA, Wash. -- More psychiatric services could soon be heading to the South Puget Sound. Washington state is considering proposals to build a new hospital in Thurston County where there is not enough space to treat a growing number of the mentally ill.
There simply aren’t enough psychiatric beds, according to area healthcare providers. More than10 percent of the people coming to Olympia's St. Peter Hospital emergency room need behavioral health services and there’s no place for them to go. Staffers at St. Peter Hospital, which is a Providence facility, are forced to manage with only 20 psychiatric beds.
“Providence and the sisters (the Providence hospital system is part of the Roman Catholic Church) have done this work for 130 years," explained Providence chief nursing officer Michelle James. "They’ve never turned anyone away, but we can’t do it ourselves. We can’t do it alone. We need partnership. We have patients on any given day in our emergency center — up to 15 to 20 people -- that are needing psychiatric services. We’re able to meet some of the needs but not all of the needs.”
The hospital and Fairfax Behavioral Health are trying to defeat a current psychiatric hospital proposal by US HealthVest. Providence wants to build an 85-bed psychiatric hospital at a cost of $30 million. Healthcare provider statistics show the need in Thurston County is great.
More than 67,000 people in Thurston County have a mental health condition. More than 80 percent of the homeless population surveyed in Olympia has a persistent mental health condition. There are roughly 580 homeless people in Thurston County.
“Our staff members do an incredible job, but every day they have patients, and there is nowhere for them to go," said James. "We really believe that we need additional services in our community."
Providence says its next step is to formally submit an application to the state's department of health by the end of May. Meanwhile, US HealthVest is continuing its application process.