DSHS holds outreach events for planned Clark County facility

Experts from the Department of Social and Health Services and the Health Care Authority hosted a pair of community events with Clark County residents to help inform and educate them about a planned 48-bed residential treatment campus.

The Behavioral Health Administration seeks to build a 48-bed civil residential treatment campus on a 20-acre swath of farmland near the WSU Vancouver campus and two other schools.

“I understand it’s scary, but we’re hoping that today we’ll be able to answer a lot of those questions you might have,” Facilities, Finance and Analytics Administration Capital Programs Chief Larry Covey told a crowd of about 20 community members during an in-person event at the WSU Vancouver campus on Nov. 4. “My ears are open. I’m willing to make changes, I just need to know what your concerns are.”

DSHS studied five other locations before settling on the former Brockman Farm at 16015 NE 50th Avenue after the purchase of another location fell through. After reviewing where civil patients in the state hospitals come from, DSHS found that Clark County needs an RTF.

“We took information from our patient population at our state hospitals and what it showed us is there’s a big population up and down the I-5 corridor,” Covey said. “What we found was that Clark County had no or very limited resources for this civil patient population.”

Experts from DSHS and HCA speak to Clark County residents during a Nov. 4 town hall about a planned residential treatment facility on a 20-acre piece of farmland in the county.​

The proposed RTF will have 48 beds across three facilities. DSHS will run one 16-bed facility and the Health Care Authority will manage the other two and use contractors to staff each of the 16-bed buildings. Having a place to care for civil patients closer to their homes is an integral part of treatment.

“Information tells us that our patients do much better in their recovery when they’re in their home communities and closer to the families,” BHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Sjan Talbot said.

Many of the questions from residents at the in-person town hall and a virtual event held Nov. 9 focused on facility security, treatment and the types of patients who will be served there, community safety, the proximity to schools and traffic impacts.

The campus will serve patients on involuntary 90- or 180-day commitments and receive treatment or services that includes psychology, psychiatry, social work, recreational therapy, occupational therapy and more, said Jenise Gogan, BHA’s director of community transitions.

“We see people make great strides at the state hospitals and transition successfully into the community every day,” she said.

The virtual event also included guest speaker Angie Dierdorff, the mother of a former Eastern State Hospital patient. She shared the story about her child’s schizophrenia and how the absence of a residential treatment facility in her area limited their treatment options before they were admitted to ESH.

The next step in the process for the Clark County site is for DSHS to submit a conditional-use permit application and get a hearing with a hearing examiner. If that application is approved, construction could begin in the summer of 2022 and the first patients could arrive in 2024.

If the permit is denied, DSHS will have to find a new location and determine what to do with the property. Either way, Covey said, DSHS is committed to providing treatment in Clark County.

“We are very confident that we have done everything we can to satisfy the county,” he said. “We feel that Clark County has a real need for this population in behavioral health and we need to provide as much support as we can in the county.”