Construction underway for new psychiatric hospital in Tacoma

KING 5's Jenna Hanchard reports.

Construction is underway for a new psychiatric hospital in Tacoma.

It’s a $41 million project by Multicare and Chi Franciscan to deal with the shortage of beds for inpatient psychiatric care beds in Pierce County.

“It’ll just make a huge difference for this county and the people that live here,” said Michael Riggo whose daughter Amy battled with bipolar disorder.

 "I really love being alive, and I'm so glad that my suicide attempt failed," said Amy, who was diagnosed 12 years ago.

"It was very disturbing and very painful to see what she was going through and not be able to get help anywhere," said Michael.

Amy had to go up to King County to get help. It was difficult for her family to hear the same story from mental health workers.

"We understand what you’re talking about, but we don't have a place to help her in Pierce County, and there's just no beds no facility available," Michael said.

Pierce County has a shortage of beds for in-patient psychiatric care. Local hospitals say the national average is about 26 beds per 100,000 residents. Pierce County has about three beds for 100,000 residents.

Carol Mitchell is the director of justice services at Pierce County who says many with severe mental health issues can either end up dead or in the criminal justice system.

“We haven’t done enough work upstream so that we can catch and divert people before they’re in crisis,” said Mitchell.

That’s why the county gave $1 million to help build the new behavioral health hospital with 120 beds.

“We’re either going to spend money upstream on behavioral health or on the back end at the jail,” said Mitchell.

© 2017 KING-TV


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