Skagit County broke ground this year on a new mental health treatment facility.
Ken Hansen, director of county Facilities Management, said the project is on schedule for completion by late July 2021.
The 16-bed evaluation and treatment center will provide acute, short-term mental health care, offering stabilization and connections to longer-term treatment.
Patients will generally be brought to the facility by law enforcement after experiencing a mental health crisis and will work with staff to plan for future care.
The project represents a first step in replacing the 141-bed long-term inpatient facility on the grounds of the former Northern State Hospital with several smaller facilities embedded in the community.
The Northern State facility is set to close in 2023, requiring replacements in the North Sound region — Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan and Snohomish counties.
With only a few years left until services there end, Skagit County is behind on finding suitable replacements, county Commissioner Lisa Janicki said at the groundbreaking ceremony in October.
“It does seem that so much should have been done long ago, but you can’t look back,” she said. “You just have to start.”
The $10 million project is funded mostly with allocations from the state, an effort spearheaded by state Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, and state Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan.
Wagoner has said the state Legislature's support for the project is a recognition that community-based mental health treatment is preferable to large, isolated institutions, because it keeps patients near friends and families, which helps with their recovery.
“In general, we’re trying to put more facilities at the local level,” Wagoner said. “Clearly, what we’ve done with large state institutions did not work.”
Hansen said construction has progressed on schedule. Crews have installed the foundation and utility hook-ups to the site in Sedro-Woolley, along Highway 20 east of PeaceHealth United General Medical Center.
The county has yet to select a health care provider for the facility, and will likely send out a request for qualifications soon. The provider will likely have some input on certain design elements, so Hansen said there are advantages to finding a partner sooner than later.
Eventually, the county hopes to expand on the campus, adding a 16-bed substance abuse treatment facility and developing the site into a central location for behavioral health care, county Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said in a previous interview.